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Video game alert: parents warned about costly transactions after Cork child spends hundreds of euro

PARENTS are being warned about computer games after a Cork child spent his mum’s month’s wages when playing one.

The incident has prompted calls for tightening of rules around in-game transactions. These so-called ‘loot boxes’ encourage players to use real money, in exchange for virtual items in games.

In May this year, the Belgian Gaming Commission deemed the games a form of gambling.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: warning about video game transactions
Senator Jerry Buttimer: warning about video game transactions
Fine Gael senator, Jerry Buttimer, has called on the Government to fast-track new legislation around gambling and gaming.

He said: “In Cork, a young boy spent a month of his mother’s wages on ‘FIFA 18’. The parent helped the child sign up to the game, using their credit card details.

“When he was playing it, a box kept coming up, asking if he wanted to buy things and he kept hitting the button and ran up a bill of hundreds of euro in no time.

"He was unaware that it was happening. It has the potential to be catastrophic in terms of running up bills and in gambling addiction."

Mr Buttimer said: “Cork has become pronounced as a city associated with gaming. Unfortunately, there are concerns regarding the potential exposure to addictive behaviour such as gambling. This is where loot boxes have crept into the gaming scene and have become a topical issue not only for gamers but for parents and governments around the world.”

Cork East TD David Stanton said a bill will be published shortly in this regard and will include rules on gaming. He said Ireland has signed up to a declaration in support of clamping down on in-game gambling.

“While the declaration does not have legal effect, it reflects concern among national authorities that online gaming products should be appropriately licensed if they offer gambling possibilities. A key purpose of it is to alert parents to potential issues arising from in-game purchases. Parents have primary responsibility to protect their children in this regard. Where a game offers the possibility of placing a bet or taking risk for financial reward within the game, it must, in my view, be licensed as a gambling product.”

The Evening Echo contacted the makers of the FIFA game, EA Sports, for comment but they did not respond before going to print.