Apple Sued over Offering Loot Boxes in App Store

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Apple may face a new lawsuit by a lady from California over loot boxes which are available for games played by children. 

A Lady from California Filed a Lawsuit Over Loot Boxes to Apple

Apple faces a lawsuit following a complaint which was filed on Friday. Reported by Apple Insider, a complaint was filed with the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Allegedly, Apple is promoting behavior similar to gambling by letting developers offer applications on the App Store which feature loot boxes. According to the complaint, plaintiff Rebecca Taylor claims that her son has spent some $25 by purchasing iTunes gift cards for opening loot boxes on the highly popular Brawl Stars mobile game. Taylor’s son, C.T. still has access to the iPhone and iPad which has the installed application. However, the complaint does not specify whether the plaintiff used the parental control feature by Apple which limits children from buying online content without permission from their parents.

The complaint says: “Not unlike Big Tobacco’s Joe Camel’ advertising campaign, Apple relies on creating addictive behaviors in kids to generate huge profits for the Company.” It continues with the following: “Over the last four years Defendant’s App Store games have brought in billions of dollars, even though the vast majority of the games are free to download.” According to the lawsuit, Apple receives a large percentage of revenue mainly from AppStore in-game purchases. The loot boxes or loot crates generate millions of dollars for Apple from kids who are using mechanisms similar to gambling, the lawsuit alleges. Besides the mobile game hit Brawl Stars, the complaint also points out to other market hits such as Mario Kart Tour, FIFA Soccer and Roblox.

The highly controversial loot boxes include many extra in-game items that children find appealing. Such items can be weapon skins, weapons, cosmetics, costumes, boosts or other items deemed as special or rare. Most games offer the same mechanisms – crates or loot boxes are received for free, but in order to open them, users must purchase a key or a token to unlock them. Opening and receiving the loot is the controversial part of the process. The mechanic of opening in-game loot boxes suggests that the item is awarded by a randomized chance. In other words, players must pay the fee to open a loot box hoping to receive a ‘rare’ or ‘special’ quality item, but they may receive just a standard one. Keeping in mind that real money are involved in order to receive such goods, this raises the question whether those activities are suitable for children.

The debate surrounding the controversial loot boxes in the US continues. US Senator Josh Hawley filed a Protecting Children from Abusive Games bill last year. The bill in question suggests banning of “play-to-win” transactions and sales of loot boxes in games, created primarily for the younger audience. Despite its submission last year, the bill so far hasn’t progressed any further.

Earlier this week, across the ocean, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport launched a research focusing on loot boxes in video games. Depending on the results, the country may consider reclassifying of those products as gambling products. In the UK, loot boxes are not regulated by the Gambling Commission under a pretext that the items which are won do not hold any real money value. This however is not entirely accurate as real money is spent for the item itself, let alone that many gambling platforms offer selling or buying options specifically for such items. With that being said, a reclassifying of those products in the UK will not be unexpected.

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