WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Wednesday, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Commerce Committee, called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch an investigation into new evidence of manipulative marketing in apps directed at children.
A new study authored by public health experts in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics reveals numerous instances of young children’s games using advertising techniques that appear to be unfair and deceptive practices as defined by Section V of the FTC Act. In their letter, the senators highlight evidence of children’s games disguising advertisements inside games, as well as making advertisements integral to games themselves; games using characters to coerce children into making in-app purchases; children’s apps being marketed as free when they actually require additional spending in order to play; and children’s apps characterizing themselves as educational, when they are in fact saturated with advertising.
“The FTC has a statutory obligation to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive advertising practices. That responsibility is all the more urgent when the potential victims of such practices are children,” wrote the senators in their letter to the five FTC commissioners. “As parents increasingly permit kids to engage in online games and apps for entertainment and fun, it is imperative to ensure that these playtime options are compliant with existing laws. We, therefore, encourage you to immediately investigate the findings outlined above and protect children and families from unfair and deceptive practices in children’s apps.”