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Korean Fair Trade Commission Investigates MMO Developers

A report in the Korean IT Industry Promotion Agency newsletter has shed more light on The Korean Fair Trade Commission's audit of several leading MMORPG developers in Sou...
A report in the Korean IT Industry Promotion Agency newsletter has shed more light on The Korean Fair Trade Commission's audit of several leading MMORPG developers in South Korea, including large firms such as Lineage 2 and City Of Heroes publisher NCsoft, following the Korean FTC's decisions in late September. According to the KIPA Report, the terms and service policies of MMORPG developers were under review by the governmental board, who is ordering corrective action. The investigation came about as a result of user complaints about the operators' clampdown on real-world transactions for in-game MMO items. Though the FTC ruled that prohibiting such deals in the terms of service is within the companies' rights, the penalties for violating that section of the agreement -- which usually involved account seizure or permanent bans -- were excessive. Companies that came under review during the investigation were NCsoft, Nexon, Gravity, Webzen, Hanbit Soft, JoyOn, Gama Soft, CCR, SunnyYNK, Actoz, and KDN Smartec. Issues for which the companies were under investigation were "perpetual seizure of user accounts" disproportionate to the infractions; failure to provide makeup service extension for operator-caused service blackouts; terminating contracts for petty violations; and holding paying parents responsible by proxy for actions taken by their game-playing children. The final result of the investigation is somewhat unclear; the FTC appears to be satisfied with preventing "any unfair penalties from being imposed on consumers," thus stimulating the trade of online items and characters, but at the same time will not move to change operators' policy regarding the banning of such behavior. The ambiguous result was reflected in response to the FTC's announcement, according to KIPA: players' opinions were mixed, while the developers were unhappy with the FTC's defanging of their punishment protocols. Publishers and developers are intending to file a complaint against the FTC ruling, in light of the established legal precedent that perpetual seizure of user accounts is a legal practice.

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