On July 6, 2022, the Better Business Bureau National Programs’ Children’s Advertising Review Unit (“CARU”) announced that it had found Outright Games in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) and CARU’s Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Advertising and Guidelines for Children’s Online Privacy Protection. Outright Games owns and operates the Bratz Total Fashion Makeover app, which CARU determined to be a “mixed audience” child-directed app subject to COPPA and CARU’s Guidelines due to the app’s subject matter, bright colors, visual content, lively audio and gameplay features.
In its review of the Bratz app, CARU found that users could change their age in the app an unlimited amount of times, which could bypass intended protections and enable children under age 13 to make in-app purchases, interact with social media and receive targeted advertising. In addition, CARU determined that Outright Game’s privacy notice failed to comply with COPPA and CARU’s Privacy Guidelines and instead included unclear, incomplete and contradictory language. Separately, CARU found that the app served ads in violation of CARU’s Advertising Guidelines, including by (1) serving ads that could not be stopped or dismissed until, e.g., the user watched the entire ad; (2) failing to use simple, clear and conspicuous language to let children know that by clicking certain buttons, they would be required to view an ad; and (3) displaying ads that were unsafe and inappropriate for children.
Outright Games has agreed to corrective actions, including:
- providing a neutral and effective age-screen so the app doesn’t inadvertently collect, use or disclose personal information of users under age 13 without first obtaining COPPA-compliant verifiable parental consent;
- providing clear and understandable notice of its children’s information collection and use practices;
- ceasing excessive and manipulative means of ad serving;
- providing clear and conspicuous disclosures of all ads;
- ensuring any methods offered by the app to exit ads are clear and conspicuous; and
- monitoring advertisements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for children.