Video games boxes will soon sport an icon warning parents of the potential for extra purchases, in a bid to avoid instances of children unwittingly spending hundreds of pounds on digital items and currencies.
Many popular titles offer players the chance to buy in-game goodies, including the likes of online multiplayer phenomenon Fortnite and the FIFA football series.
The former sells costumes and other items for players to customise their characters, while FIFA features a mode in which fans can build their teams by collecting packs of cards – all of which can be bought for real money.
Last December, the Metro reported that a teenager had accidentally spent his mother’s entire monthly wage on FIFA 18 because her debit card was registered to his PlayStation account.
The woman, who did not want to be named, claimed her 14-year-old son was unaware money was being taken out of her bank account because the game did not tell him he was being charged for the purchases.
And in April, another woman told The Sun that her son had accidentally spent £52 on Fortnite, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars each month.
PEGI (Pan European Game Information) – which provides age ratings for games in the UK – has now announced it plans to introduce a new badge for physical releases to help inform parents as they shop.
Simon Little, managing director at the classification board, said: “Making parents aware of the existence of optional in-game purchases upfront is an important first step.
“PEGI will now make this information available at the point of purchase, so that a parent can decide whether and how they want to monitor or limit a child’s spending.
“Entering into a dialogue with the child about the games they enjoy is a must for all parents. It will provide them with the necessary context to create a gaming environment both the children and the parents are comfortable with.”
The icon is set to be introduced by Christmas, when new instalments in many major franchises are usually released.
Other European countries already have far stricter rules in place to protect children from wracking up huge gaming bills, with Belgium and the Netherlands declaring some in-game spending as gambling and therefore illegal.
Those rulings relate to so-called loot boxes, which allow players to purchase packs of items without knowing exactly what they will receive in return.