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Ad watchdog told Walmart’s Roblox ad game violates rules • The Register

Rights groups have asked a US children’s advertising regulator to review a Walmart app, claiming it is “deceptive marketing” to young children playing Roblox through a “promotional game” called the Walmart Universe of Play.

The groups that Truth in Advertising is a part of claim Walmart doesn’t make it clear that the app advertises its products.

To add insult to injury, the groups allege in a joint letter that only weeks ago, Walmart joined the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Safe Harbor program and used CARU’s special seal, the very watchdog, whom the groups are asking to intervene to show parents the “advergame” that complies with the law.

According to the group’s complaint [PDF]:

universe of the game

The app in question – Universe of Play (from the letter)

It adds that “although there is no clear and conspicuous disclosure to inform children about it Walmart Universe of Play is an advertising game, the marketing has already started. Not only is the game named and modeled after the retail giant’s Universe of Play toy catalogue, but some of the year’s “best toys” are featured in a picture carousel at the top of the page, and children are told if they participate in this experience, can have them [their] own LOL surprise! Fashion Show”, “Hunting Missing Dino Eggs in Jurassic World”, “Join the PAW Patrol to Find Chickaletta”…all products sold in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.”

When we reached out to the $385.69 billion retailer for comment, a spokesman said, “In December 2022, Walmart was approved to join CARU’s COPPA Safe Harbor program after showing that Universe of Play, a new immersive Roblox experience, meets the strict requirements of COPPA and CARU guidelines.”

In fiscal 2022, the company, which owns Asda in the UK, chains Builders Warehouse and Makro across Africa, and several Massmart and Walmart chains around the world, had annual sales of $578 billion and reported $15.9 billion -dollars returned to shareholders.

The United States COPPA, which went into effect in April 2000 and was amended in 2013, applies to commercial websites and online services (including smartphone apps) targeted at, or known to be used by, children under the age of 13 who collect , use or disclose personal information. It requires the services to say they are using the data and ask for parental consent.

In the UK, data protection issues relating to children are governed by the Data Protection Act 2018, which includes the “UK GDPR”. In the European Union, personal data may only be collected and processed from a child under the age of 16 with the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Member States can lower this individually to 13 years.

A controversial new bill in the UK, the Online Safety Bill, which was on second reading in the House of Lords at the time of publication, aims to take this further, seeking to weaken encryption again on behalf of children’s safety. We took a look this morning and age verification is still included in the version that has come back from the commons.

Attention Walmart buyers

The Truth In Advertising Group, meanwhile, said that with the ad game, Walmart has delivered on its promise to “reach our customers in unexpected ways,” but not in a good way – adding that many kids “are not able to get the Recognizing the promotional nature and compelling intent of such marketing material.”

It notes that because Walmart has labeled its promotional game “All Ages Suitable for All,” anyone on Roblox can participate in it. “This includes young children whose parents have changed their children’s Roblox account settings to only access content appropriate for ‘all ages,’ TINA.org recently told the FTC and Roblox.”

Think of the children’s wallets

In December last year Fourteen days Owner Epic Games paid a whopping $520 million in cash after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found the company guilty of violating children’s privacy and causing customers to make unwanted purchases in two unanimous (4-0) decisions to have misled.

“Epic ignored more than a million user complaints and repeated employee concerns that a ‘huge’ number of users were unfairly charged,” the FTC claimed at the time, adding that “through internal testing, Epic intentionally obscured cancellation and refund features, to make them harder to find.”

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The developer replied at the time: “The old status quo for in-game commerce and privacy has changed, and many developer practices should be reconsidered.”

Perhaps it’s best to stick to CBeebies and PBS apps rather than those geared toward commercial franchises, or perhaps limit electronics altogether, although for those who work and don’t have childcare, it’s easier said than done is done.

At least then you don’t ask yourself: “Why is the mayor that Paw Patrol town constantly chasing after her pet chicken, Chickaletta, instead of attending to civic duties?” And, “Why are puppies—not even full-grown dogs—charged with rescuing townspeople?” Though even the excellent octonautswith his “Creature Reports” marine biological recapitulations Registration number Parents wonder, “why didn’t these seafaring biologists, upon encountering the ‘Vegimals,’ who inexplicably have both plant and animal biology, not ask any more questions, but just use them right away in the kitchen to bake cookies?”

We will never know. ®

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