European consumer groups are joining forces to call for a ban on lootboxes. A collective action that supports a report published by the Norwegian Consumer Council.
We do not know if the lootboxes will disappear one day or not, but in any case, more and more people are protesting against this process. In Europe, consumers want to interfere in this battle.
A ban on lootboxes in Europe?
“Lootboxes are taboo, we will all overcome them”. It could be the slogan of 20 consumer groups, from 18 different European countries, who are launching a collective action to legislate on lootboxes. Consumers who come from France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain or again from the Netherlands. For the latter, it’s surprising because like Belgium, the ban is already there and Diablo Immortal has even been banned from these territories.
A fight alongside Norway
While coordinated action may carry more weight, it also comes after a report from the Norwegian Consumer Council. This report “How the Gaming Industry Exploits Consumers Using Loot Boxes” denounces the way in which users can be exploited, with treacherous mechanisms.
In our work, we have demonstrated that the sale and presentation of lootboxes often involves the exploitation of consumers via predatory mechanisms, by promoting addiction, by targeting vulnerable consumer groups etc Although it is a major industry, the video game industry has largely escaped regulatory scrutiny. Business models are technically complex or new. Many authorities consider video games to be a niche entertainment market.
Finn Myrstad, Director of Digital Services at the Norwegian Consumer Council
For the Norwegian council, we are far from a so-called niche market, and that is why it demands that things change drastically.
Due to the size of the market and the number of consumers affected by this, national and European authorities must prioritize investigations and regulatory interventions. We are calling for a number of measures such as a ban on misleading designs, additional protections for minors, and transaction-level transparency.
Create the need, establish the fear of lack
In the report, the Norwegian council discusses how lootboxes drive purchases, starting with the time limits given to acquire loot boxes, with the aim of instilling the fear of missing out on a crucial item, and that these boxes are suggested as “essential” to win the games. The much too random side is obviously mentioned in the study. But also the problem that exists in getting a virtual currency against real money, without being able to really know what you are spending.
Two games are also cited to illustrate these remarks, FIFA 22 and Raid Shadow Legends.
Both of these games use a wide arsenal of tricks to trick consumers into spending as much time and money as possible, exploiting consumers who hope to get the coveted reward despite a slim chance and probability of it happening.
Bans in Europe… but not in France
Given the statements of the Norwegian council, in the event of a reaction from European countries, it would look more like a ban to only authorize “classic” microtransactions such as a Fortnite Batman skin at “3 euros”. Because indeed, emptying the lootboxes of their “substance” would no longer be of great interest to those who use them.
As mentioned above, Belgium and the Netherlands have already come out in favor of an outright ban. And in France, where are we? Jérôme Durain, senator from Saône-et-Loire, had questioned the president of the National Games Authority in the midst of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy … in 2017. Since then, not a word.
On your side, do you think it’s time to do something for lootboxes? Better supervise them or remove them completely? Have you ever spent a few euros or even large sums for lootboxes? Tell us everything in comments.