CFPB Identifies Significant Financial and Privacy Risks in Video Gaming Marketplaces

April 30, 2024

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a comprehensive report detailing growing financial transactions within video gaming and virtual worlds, which increasingly mimic traditional monetary systems.

This LawFlash aims to summarize the report's key findings and outline the implications for stakeholders within the gaming industry, including developers, publishers, and financial service providers.


The CFPB's Banking in Video Games and Virtual Worlds report explores the sophisticated nature of financial transactions that now pervade the gaming market. As video games continue to evolve from simple entertainment media into complex virtual economies, the distinction between digital and real-world financial activities continues to blur. Players spend and invest substantial amounts of real money in virtual currencies, assets, and other in-game properties, often expecting similar protections as those afforded in conventional banking environments.


The integration of real-world financial practices into gaming platforms has led to the emergence of various financial products and services on these virtual platforms. These financial products include proprietary payment systems, digital wallets, and credit facilities, transforming gaming platforms into fully-fledged economic ecosystems. However, the integration of financial products and services has also introduced what the CFPB sees as significant risks to consumers:

  • Value and Transferability of Gaming Assets: The CFPB highlights the immense value that gaming assets can accumulate, akin to real-world assets. These assets are increasingly easy to buy, sell, or trade on secondary markets, sometimes for real money. These online ecosystems are increasingly indistinguishable from real world marketplaces. However, unlike traditional financial assets, the CFPB is concerned that these gaming assets may lack the regulatory oversight and consumer protection measures necessary to safeguard users against fraud, scams, and other financial risks.
  • Data Privacy and Surveillance: Gaming companies have access to vast amounts of personal data, extending beyond essential identity and financial details to include biometric data and behavioral patterns. Though the issue is—for the most part—outside the CFPB’s jurisdiction, this data collection raises, in the CFPB’s view, serious privacy concerns, particularly when games do not fully disclose their privacy policies. The CFPB also expressed concern about whether companies have taken the appropriate steps to use this information for targeted advertising and personalized pricing strategies.
  • Lack of Consumer Protections: One of the most pressing concerns cited in the report is the absence of consistent, standard consumer protections in fraud or account theft. The CFPB contends that the lack of affirmative safeguards may place an undue burden on consumers, many of whom are minors or otherwise vulnerable populations.


In response to these concerns, the CFPB has committed to closely monitoring these non-traditional financial markets to ensure compliance with existing financial laws and regulations. The CFPB’s proactive stance includes evaluating current practices, proposing new guidelines, and potentially enforcing actions to protect consumers. These actions represent significant steps towards ensuring that gaming companies provide clear, transparent, and fair practices, especially with respect to the handling and security of user data and financial transactions.


The CFPB's findings and ongoing monitoring efforts have substantial implications for all stakeholders in the gaming industry. Gaming companies must continuously assess their data handling and financial transaction practices to ensure they align with regulatory developments and provide adequate protection for consumers. Failure to comply could lead to significant legal and reputational risks, including potential penalties and loss of consumer trust.


The CFPB's report and actions are a critical reminder of the evolving nature of consumer financial protection in our digital world. The need and likelihood of robust regulatory frameworks becomes increasingly apparent as the boundaries between digital and physical assets continue to fade. This report has signaled the CFPB’s intent to monitor gaming marketplaces more closely for compliance with consumer protection laws.

The CFPB’s increased scrutiny could lead to investigations and enforcement actions against companies that fail to provide adequate consumer protections or that engage in unfair practices. Additionally, given that financial services within gaming platforms are becoming comparable to traditional regulated payment services, such services also may be subject to state and federal regulatory oversight, registration, or licensing.

At the same time, the practical reality is that the CFPB has taken on numerous other ambitious, high-priority projects over the last several months, and it is unclear that the agency has sufficient focus and resources itself to take action following the report. However, as with many of the CFPB’s other recent actions, the purpose of the report is likely as much to spur the attention of other consumer protection authorities who work closely with the CFPB—such as the Federal Trade Commission, which has privacy jurisdiction; the state attorneys general, who have general jurisdiction to bring unfair or deceptive acts or practices (UDAP) claims; and state financial regulators, who have primary jurisdiction over the money transmission and payments marketplace—as to announce the agency’s own priorities.

Stakeholders across the gaming industry should stay informed of these developments and seek to implement best practices in consumer protection and compliance within their gaming platforms.

For more detailed information, stakeholders are encouraged to review the full CFPB report and consider discussing with legal counsel to understand the broader implications for their operations and compliance strategies.


Our lawyers are well suited to advise stakeholders within the gaming industry, including developers, publishers, and financial service providers on these issues. If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following:

Brian P. Slough (Philadelphia)
Nicholas M. Gess (Washington, DC)
Doneld G. Shelkey (Boston / Pittsburgh)
Allen Denson (Washington, DC)