An investigation conducted by UK gaming publication Computer & Video Games shows that some online retailers are not doing their best to keep under-age children from buying mature-rated video games online. The investigative report (which includes some video) shows a person purchasing three games online without any age verification checks blocking his purchase. The UK-based retailers found to be lacking in this area include Amazon UK, HMV and Zavvi.
The Trading Standards agency has criticized retailers for loopholes found in their online systems and has warned them: "Should a minor make a purchase from these sites, the businesses would not have a due diligence defence to protect them from prosecution." One of the games purchased was Manhunt 2 from Rockstar Games, which the BBFC initially refused to classify in 2007 due to its violent content. That decision was later overruled following an appeal.
C&VG says that its investigation also found:
•In the past five years, the market share of 18-rated games has grown from 5 to 18 percent
•About a third of all retail games are sold online
•The most popular age group of Facebook fans for games such as Assassin's Creed 3, Gears of War 3 and Modern Warfare 3 was in the 13-17 range.
•Both an anonymous EA games director, and a director at Avalanche Studios, believe that more than half of their audience are under age.
Trading Standards officer Paul Miloseski-Reid said that the organization will now engage with retailers to discuss the severity of online loopholes after learning about the C&VG results.
He told the publication that retailers "must employ systems to verify the age of the purchaser if they are to have a due diligence defence against prosecution."
"There have been concerns for a number of years that many internet retailers, which include some of the national high street chains, are not taking enough precautions, if any at all, to prevent children purchasing age-restricted products from their websites. The problem appears to be widespread," he added.