FTC To Host Public Workshop On Loot Boxes, Could Be Exploring Legal Action

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The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reportedly plans to host a public workshop on loot boxes, but declined to comment on whether it is conducting any formal investigation.

Variety reports that a letter from FTC chairman Joseph Simons to Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) revealed the workshop, in response to a letter Hassan had written expressing her concern about the practice. Simons noted that he cannot reveal any legal action underway that isn't already public, but stressed that the FTC has other tools available.

"For example, we are currently planning a public workshop on loot boxes for later this year as one non-law enforcement option," he wrote. "A workshop could provide a forum for stakeholders representing wide-ranging perspectives, including consumer advocacy organizations, parent groups, and industry members. It also could help elicit information to guide subsequent consumer outreach, which could include a consumer alert."

In a statement, Hassan praised the workshop as "a step in the right direction," but emphasized that the FTC should keep working with various stakeholders "to ensure that meaningful improveements are made to increase transparency and consumer protections."

Last year, Hassan also wrote a letter to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) asking it to look into the practice of marketing loot boxes to children, and to formalize best practices for microtransactions. Shortly after, and amid mounting pressure from other advocacy groups, the ESRB announced it would label games with in-game purchases.

This workshop could be a sign that the controversy over loot boxes and microtransactions is far from over. 2018 marked a big shift in how the industry treated loot boxes. Following the launch of Star Wars Battlefront 2, concerns were raised regarding loot boxes resemblance to gambling, especially in games targeted towards minors. Some in the industry are pressing for change, though many feel it should come from self-regulation.

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