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UK ratings not legally binding

UK ratings not legally binding

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It has been revealed that the Video Recordings Act, which makes the ratings provided for movie and game releases in the UK legally binding, is in fact not binding at all. The law was passed through parliament in 1984 under the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher, but the government of the time neglected to send the law to the European Commission for ratification, thus making it invalid. This slip-up was discovered by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, presumably during its work crossing over from using the BBFC for videogame ratings to using PEGI alone.

The original act states that all video recordings sold or rented must must be classified by a body appointment by the Home Office (the BBFC for the last 25 years) and that it is a criminal offence to sell any recorded product to a person under the age of the classification. The act was amended in 1994 under the John Major government to include all media capable of storing electronic data, but this exempted all videogames unless they contained violent imagery. The government recently decided to back European ratings body PEGI as the sole rater of videogames for the UK while keeping the BBFC as the body that classifies video releases.

If you happened to be under the age of 18 and want to get your hands on a copy of Grand Theft Auto though you’ll be bitterly disappointed. While it is estimated that it will take at least 90 days to close this loophole in the law, retailers and game publishers have already stated that they will abide by the non-law until it is ratified properly. That means that while classifications will not be legally binding for at least another three months, retailers will choose not to sell adult media to minors voluntarily and publishers will continue to submit their games for classification.

In the meantime let’s just sit back and enjoy the finger pointing.




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  • Dave Moore

    yes,but legally then a store cannot refuse to sell to minors.

  • Alas, that’s not the case. Stores are within their rights to refuse to sell to anybody, unless it could be argued that they are discriminating against someone on grounds of race, religion, etc. In this instance I think a court would side with a retailer if they refused to sell Manhunt 2 to an 8-year old.