FTC: Minor victory for video game retailers


FTC / Federal Trade CommissionIt verges on a major victory, actually, but it concerns minors. When it comes to keeping inappropriate material out of the hands of minors, retail outlets are at the top of their game when it comes to video games. They’re also pretty good at keeping kids out of R-rated movies. The biggest problem area is music recordings.

The report comes as excellent news for the gaming industry, which has been buffeted with criticism in the wake of actual violent events, including notably the mass shooting of elementary school children and adults working with them in Newtown CT.

“Only 13 percent of underage shoppers were able to purchase M-rated video games, while a historic low of 24 percent were able to purchase tickets to R-rated movies,” said FTC. “In addition, for the first time since the FTC began its mystery shop program in 2000, music CD retailers turned away more than half of the undercover shoppers. Movie DVD retailers also demonstrated steady improvement, permitting less than one-third of child shoppers to purchase R-rated DVDs and unrated DVDs of movies that had been rated R for theaters.”

FTC sends secret shoppers aged 13-16 and unaccompanied by an adult to produce its statistics.

“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.”

FTC provided comments on each type of product:

* Movie tickets. Ratings enforcement at the movie box office is at its highest level since the FTC began its mystery shopper program in 2000. Less than one-quarter of underage shoppers were able to buy a ticket to an R-rated movie, down from one-third in 2010.

* Movie DVDs. Retailers of R-rated and unrated DVDs continued their trend toward increased ratings enforcement. Thirty percent of shoppers were able to purchase R-rated DVDs compared to 38 percent in 2010, and 30 percent were able to buy unrated DVDs, down from 47 percent in 2010.

* Music CDs. Retailers of explicit-content music are increasingly turning away children attempting to purchase music CDs bearing the Parental Advisory Label. Less than half of underage shoppers (47 percent) were able to purchase CDs with this label, down from 64 percent in 2010 and 72 percent in 2009.

* Video games. Unchanged from 2010, 13 percent of underage teenage shoppers were able to buy M-rated video games – the highest level of compliance among the industries.

FTC charted its results. It’s full report can be found here.