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Age Rating Laws No Longer Enforceable in the U.K.

| 25 Aug 2009 15:12
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A "legal blunder" committed 25 years ago means that it is not actually illegal to sell mature-rated videogames and DVDs to children in the U.K.

It's a classic example of a bureaucratic loophole: The U.K. government passed the Video Recordings Act in 1984, mandating age ratings for all videos and videogames and restricting their sale to children. But somebody dropped the ball: The law was passed but nobody bothered to tell the European Commission, which according to Barbara Follett, the Minster for Culture, Media and Sport, means it cannot actually be enforced.

"Unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts," the Minister said in a letter sent to related industry groups. She claimed the government was moving to fix the problem as quickly as possible and asked everyone to handle the matter with "care and sensitivity" in the meantime to ensure the loophole isn't exploited.

The industry groups in question have agreed to continue voluntarily enforcing age ratings while the matter is resolved, according to a government spokeswoman, who added that despite the lack of legal footing, previous prosecutions based on the law will stand. "Our legal advice is that those previously prosecuted will be unable to overturn their prosecution or receive financial recompense," she said.

Naturally, there was plenty of blame to go around and one member of the opposition Liberal Democrat party actually suggested the minor mistake from 25 years ago is a "massive embarrassment" for the Conservative party, yet another foolish highlight of the stridence with which politics is handled in this day and age. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the situation "outrageous" and linked it somewhat more rationally to the long-fought battle between the BBFC and PEGI rating systems in the country. "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," he said.

The government said it will pass the law again, filing all the paperwork properly this time around, and have the loophole closed in about three months.

Source: BBC

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