The Walt Disney Company has been censured by the UK advertising watchdog for not making clear that a children's mobile phone game cost £5 in its advertising.
Disney broke Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) rules on truthfulness and pricing and was told to change its advertising. The ASA also told the company to make sure that parental consent was given for expensive game downloads.
Disney advertised two sets of games available for download to mobile phones. A complaint was made to the ASA that the cost of the games was not made clear and that the advertising was irresponsible because it appealed to children who could download the games without adult permission.
The company argued that the signs advertised mobile internet links not to the games themselves, but to sites which explained what the games were and that they cost £5. It also said that the brochure which contained the ads was aimed at parents, not children.
"We considered that it was unclear that the ads were simply an invitation to find out more about the games and that the charge mentioned in the ad was for an initial text message only," said the ASA ruling. "We concluded that the ads should have either included the full cost of downloading the games, or explained clearly that the cost referred to in the ads was the cost of gathering information about the games and a further charge would apply to get the games on your phone."
Disney told the ASA that the advertising was designed for adults. It said that the wording of phrases such as 'Indulge your little princess with her own special carriage this Christmas' or '…costumes and accessories for your little pirate' made it clear that the brochure was for adults.
The ASA did not accept Disney's argument. "It was available in store and its distribution was therefore not restricted to adults only and because some of its content spoke directly to children, the brochure was, at least in part, addressed to or targeted at children," said the ASA ruling.
"Given that, and because the games were complex and costly products, we concluded that adult permission should have been obtained before children were committed to purchasing them," it said.
Disney was told to include the full cost of games in future advertising and to find a way to make sure that adult permission was granted before children were able to purchase such costly games.