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FTC: DVD Retailers Improve Ratings Enforcement

25 Mar, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

Major retailers have steadily improved their enforcement of DVD ratings, restricting the sale of ‘R’-rated and unrated titles to minors in most situations, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Since 2000, the FTC has sent underage shoppers into major retail stores — including Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Kmart, Walmart, Target, Blockbuster and Trans World Entertainment Corp. — to try and buy ‘R’-rated and unrated DVDs. The FTC shoppers also attempted to purchase restricted CDs, games and movie tickets.

In 2012 Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Kmart refused to sell unrated DVDs to more than 80% of underage shoppers. Barnes & Noble permitted 48% of underage shoppers to buy ‘R’-rated DVDs, but only 14% to purchase unrated DVDs. Walmart permitted underage shoppers to buy ‘R’-rated DVDs 22% of the time, and unrated DVDs 33% of the time.

Blockbuster, Best Buy, Walmart and Kmart denied more than 75% of attempts to buy ‘R’-rated DVDs. Overall, retailers turned away underage customers who attempted to purchase ‘R’-rated or unrated DVDs 70% of the time.

“Our underage shopper survey shows continued progress in reducing sales,” said Charles Harwood, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But retailers can still strengthen their commitment to limit children’s access to products that are rated or labeled as potentially inappropriate for them.”

Thirteen percent of underage shoppers were able to purchase mature-rated games, while a record low 24% were able to purchase ‘R’-rated movie tickets. Music CD retailers turned away more than half of the underage shoppers. 

Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association, praised retailers for improvement in enforcing the ratings of games and DVDs.

“The record levels of enforcement demonstrate video game and DVD retailers’ commitment to assisting parents in managing their children’s entertainment consumption,” he said. “They also show the continued effectiveness of voluntary industry efforts.”

Senator Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, praised the National Association of Theater Owners for the positive theatrical ratings enforcement results.

“Since the rating system was created 44 years ago, the MPAA and our member companies have been dedicated to giving parents the tools and information about the content of our films so that they can make the best decisions possible about what they allow their children to see,” he said.

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