In the UK, 25 years worth of government enforcement of content ratings for video games and films has been found to lack the required legal basis.
As reported by politics.co.uk, the Maggie Thatcher regime failed to notify the European Commission regarding the 1984 Video Recordings Act, thus invalidating the law.
In the UK, unlike the United States, content ratings have the force of law and those who sell adult-rated games or movies to minors can be charged with an offense. The oversight was discovered recently by the British government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport.
A representative of the UK’s Entertainment Retailers Association expressed amazement at the news:
This is extraordinary. For 25 years retailers have been faithfully administering the system and now this happens.
Meanhwile, Liberal Democrat Don Foster seized the opportunity to criticize Conservative Party leader David Cameron:
This must be a massive embarrassment to the Tories, especially as David Cameron was the special advisor to the Home Secretary in 1993 when the law was amended.
However, Conservative Jeremy Hunt pointed the finger of blame back at the Labor Government:
Much of the problem would have been avoided if they had sorted out the classification of video games earlier, as we and many others in the industry have been urging them to do.
Game publishers lobbying group ELSPA has counseled its members to proceed normally and offered to help the government fix the mistake. As reported by gamesindustry.biz, ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson said:
The discovery that the Video Recordings Act is not enforceable is obviously very surprising. In the interest of child safety it is essential that this loophole is closed as soon as possible.
In this respect the videogames industry will do all it can to support and assist the government to that effect. ELSPA will therefore advise our members to continue to forward games to be rated as per the current agreement while the legal issues are being resolved.
Theoretically, at least, unscrupulous sellers have a 90-day window to peddle adult content to children. It will take the government at least that long to push through a revision to the VRA.