UK Group Stings Game Retailers

June 26, 2008 -

Earlier this week GamePolitics reported on complaints by UK watchdog groups that online auction sellers were selling 18+ games to underage buyers.

Now the Harrow Observer reports that some game retailers in that part of London have been caught selling mature-themed games in a sting conducted by Harrow Council Trading Standards and Which? Computing. The stores fingered in the report are Woolworths, Game and Maplin.

From the newspaper account:

All three shops have now launched internal investigations into the sales and will face legal action from the council if caught out again.

 

Woolworths sold Grand Theft Auto (GTA) - Vice City Stories.... to the [15-year-old] girl without question. In the Maplin store, the assistant asked the investigator's age, but did not refuse the sale of Hitman, even when she said she was 15.
 
The six other Harrow stores that were tested in the operation in May - Tesco, Argos, Debenhams, HMV, Currys Digital and Entertainment Exchange - all refused to sell the game to the teenager.

GP: While this smcall-scale study almost certainly wasn't conducted with the design rigor of the Federal Trade Commission's secret shopper survey in the US, its results (67% success rate in blocking the underage sale) aren't that far off from the 80% success rate that the FTC found here in the States.


Comments

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Dennis you made a typo

"While this smcall-scale study"

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

 Y'know, the real kicker here is the fact that in the UK it actually IS illegal to sell such a game to a minor. This actually works as proof that gov't based video game regulation will NOT lead to 100% enforcement. It makes the game legislation that they are trying to push in the US not only unconstitutional, but meaningless as well as the results would only be about as good as the voluntary enforcement. (as if there was any doubt in my mind)

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Im not shocked at the numbers, I AM suprised at GAME. A videogame retailer should know better, and have its staff trained up to deal with these kinds of situations.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

I concur.  Game of all people should be carding people.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Yeah, but if you sent in a 16 year old boy, they wouldn't have sold it. Imagine a teen working at these places confronted with another teen girl who is interested in video games.

I just feel this was less a sting and more entrapment.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

That's a piss-poor excuse and you know it. The person's gender should have no bearing on a sale, whether the 17 year-old clerk was trying to pick them up or not.

-- teh moominz --

-- teh moominz --

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Ohhhh, so THAT's where Woolworth's dissappeared to. I always wondered about that.

 

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______________ You see, I believe in the noble, aristocratic art of doing absolutely nothing. And one day, I hope to be in a position to do even less!

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Yeah, I'm surprised it's still around. When I was a little kid, Woolworths was the place to be for video games. Nothing like playing the Arkanoid machine or spending 30 minutes on Super Mario World at the SNES demo station...before I got the system anyways.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Additionally, I note that in the FTC secret shopper survey, the only major games-only retailers had only 6% success rate of someone underage getting a copy of a Mature title.  All the others are places that sell multiple types of media, e.g. KMart, Target etc.  This somewhat flys in the face of Jack's theories of the industry not policing itself, no?  Maybe instead of introducing regulations those in favour of preventing children getting hold of Mature titles should encourage the likes of Hollywood Video and Circuit City to train their staff better?

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

I'm with Chuma here, without comparative statistics, it's just numbers.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Are ratings in the UK legally enforceable or is it like the ESRB in the U.S.?

In any case, I don't really have a problem with this necessarily.  Obviously for the ratings to be effective there needs to be SOME kind of enforcement and game retailers need to not sell mature games to unescorted, underage buyers.

The key being that the buyers, I presume, were unescorted.  If the gaming community fails to hold retailers accountable when they violate the ratings without cause then we have no credibility to complain when irrational people yell about violent games in the hands of kids.

I would hope, probably in futility, that the real focus of this "string" would be that out of 9 stores 6 actually did enforce the ratings while 3 did not.  But somehow I think the message that comes out of this will be "Stores Sell Murder Simulators to Innocent Doe-Eyed Babies!!!!!!!!!!"

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

They are enforceable.  I think that if those who bought these were to report the shop in question they can be fined up to £1000 per offence (will have to check on that incase it has changed recently).  A Custodial sentence is rarely used but in theory you can get up to 6 months for it.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Well at least there is some validity to this then.  Although IMO, there's probably much much worse things these groups could focus on.

Like I said, I don't find this particular aggregious, after all someone needs to check up.  I don't think it would the worst idea if the ESRB did similar things on this side of the Atlantic.  If the gaming industry really wants some respect it should do some serious enforcement.

If the ESRB had any real power I would argue for some kind of sanction.  Like if a store gets a more than 15% failure rate they lose the ability to sell M rated games for a month or something. I think if there was some actual enforcement ability on the part of the ESRB we might see the controversy diminish.  Ya know, if every so often the ESRB actually came out and said "We're actually punishing retailors who violate the ratings without good cause [like a parent giving permission]"

But ultimately, the ESRB simply doesn't have the power to do that.

Re: UK Group Stings Game Retailers

Ofcourse, unlike in the US, this is actually illegal so the principle of the sting is more valid.

I'd be interested to see if the same shops sold 18 films to 15 year olds as well.

 
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