The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has published a draft law that will ban the sale of loot boxes to under 18s.
Spain.- The Spanish Ministry of Consumer Affairs has opened a three-week consultation period on a proposed law that would ban video games designers from offering loot boxes to minors. The consultation will be open until July 23.
The loot box mechanic used in video games allows players to buy mystery in-game items whose contents are decided by a random number generator. The similarities between loot box mechanics and gambling has been discussed by regulators globally, and particularly in Europe.
The Spanish regulator, the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) ran a consultation last year to explore whether loot boxes should be regulated as gambling products or whether they required regulations of their own, or an outright ban. It was concluded that there is a similarity between loot boxes and gambling but also notable differences that required new and specific ad hoc rules.
The proposed rules on loot boxes
The new rules on loot boxes proposed by the ministry include a ban on their sale to under 18s. For this to work, companies that offer loot boxes would have to enable a verification system to check participants’ identities.
Further proposed rules cover limits on advertising. These would be similar to those imposed on gambling, with ads only allowed between 1am and 5am. Ads would not be allowed to “incite thoughtless or compulsive use” of loot boxes and must not mislead consumers about the chances of them receiving a particular prize.
They must also include messages encouraging consumers to only use loot boxes in moderation.
On payment, players would have to be given have access to clear information on the chances of obtaining certain items, and the cost of items must be displayed in euros, not only in in-game credits.
Game developers would also need to create a self-exclusion scheme, which would allow players to opt out of being allowed access to loot boxes. Players would also have to be given the ability to set spending limits and time limits for loot boxes.
Developers that committed “serious” breaches of the rules, for example by failing to display details about the probability of winning certain items could face fines of up to €200,000. “Very serious” breaches, which would include allowing a minor to purchase a loot box, could be punished with a fine of up to €3m.
The publication of the draft legislation on loot boxes comes after the Ministry of Consumer Affairs said at the start of the year that it intended to open a dialogue with the aim of regulating loot boxes, play-to-earn (P2E) games and crypto games. It said it was carrying out “very exhaustive monitoring of this entire series of phenomena”.