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Australian Parliamentary Committee Suggests Age Checks For Loot Boxes

Posted on March 11, 2020 | 10:09 am

After intense debate and discussion, the Australian Parliament’s Committee urges the nation to take the path of mandatory age checks for playing loot boxes.

The “Protecting the age of innocence“ report emanated from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs counts well over 100 pages and strongly recommends that the country set out “options for restricting access to loot boxes in video games, including through the use of age verification.“

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Loot Boxes As A Form Of Gambling

Even though the report is mainly about the exposure of children to pornography and gambling on the internet, the committee also suggests that a “relevant government department report to the Australian Government on options for restricting access to loot boxes and other simulated gambling elements in computer and video games to adults aged 18 years or over.”

Acknowledging the fact…

…that gaming is not reflected in the legal definition of wagering under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, the Committee still has certain concerns that children and young people can be exposed to simulated gambling through loot boxes able to “act as a gateway to problem gambling and associated harms later in life.“

The Committee also noted the existence of evidence pointing out that young people are often exposed to online gambling by their parents or guardians. In line with this, it calls for more resources that can help inform parents about the potential risks and harms, as well as assist them to create safer online environments for their children.

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Reducing Timeframe For identity Checks

Among the suggested measures are also “tighter restrictions and warnings on video games that include micro-transactions,” which means age-related restrictions can be extended even to non-random loot. Anyway, despite the report’s advisory nature and the absence of actions taken to bring it into force, the identification of loot boxes as a form of gambling is a significant step forward for opponents of microtransactions.

All in all, plenty of details…

…regarding age verification procedures are still to be developed. For instance, the Committee notes that the National Consumer Protection Framework for online betting is currently under review, with the intention to reduce the timeframe for customers’ identity checks from 14 days to 72 hours. Hopefully, future actions focused on customer protection will also contribute to the better player experience.

In conclusion, the Committee expressed its understanding that the subject of age verification “requires further review, research and development in order to be implemented effectively as part of a multi-faceted and layered approach to online safety.“

The report also highlighted the importance of a comprehensive approach as lack of adequate research may lead to raising risks and “unintended consequences around data security, trust, privacy and freedom of expression.“

Source: “Protecting the age of innocence report“Australian Parliament. February 2020.

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