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ESRB and Video Game Retailers Clamp Down on Selling Mature Games to Minors

21 Jun, 2006 By: Angelique Flores

Major retailers and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) Wednesday adopted a plan to boost store compliance with policies that restrict minors from buying ‘Mature'-rated video games.

The commitment was announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill with Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), George Allen (R-VA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), ESRB president Patricia Vance, National PTA deputy executive director Kimberly Barnes-O'Connor, Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) president Bo Andersen and Entertainment Software Association (ESA) president Doug Lowenstein.

This unprecedented commitment will provide parents the ability to return or exchange ‘M'-rated games sold to their children, and it will educate customers about ESRB video game ratings. In addition to enforcing store policies and posting in-store signage, the ESRB Retail Council (ERC) has agreed to:

  • Participate in two “mystery shopper” audits each year to measure and track the level of sales policy enforcement

  • Train store associates about ESRB ratings and game sales procedures/policies

  • Provide ESRB ratings in circulars, on Web sites and in other promotional vehicles

  • Establish a mechanism for consumer redress for non-compliance with sales procedures/policies

  • Share best practices with other members

  • “The ESRB Retail Council's ‘Commitment to Parents' represents a tremendous and concrete step forward by retailers to vigorously enforce their store policies, address customer complaints and help ensure that consumers, especially parents, make informed purchase decisions for their families,” said ESRB president Patricia E. Vance.

    The major retailers participating account for about 80% of computer and video game sales. ERC members include Best Buy, Blockbuster, Circuit City, GameStop/EB Games, Movie Gallery/Hollywood Video/Game Crazy, Target and Wal-Mart, and represents more than 20,000 retail locations.

    “This comprehensive program demonstrates in the most tangible way how truly genuine their commitment is, and parents will recognize benefit from it,” said Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association.

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that retailers are increasingly enforcing their voluntary restriction of ‘M'-rated games sales. In its most recent mystery shopper study, the FTC found that national retailers refused to sell ‘M'-rated games to minors 65% of the time. This closely matches the level of restriction for movie theatres, which has been considered the “gold standard.”

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