News item

Children can buy violent video games through Internet auctions

Traders are breaking the law by selling violent 18-rated video games on popular Internet auction sites, the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has revealed.

An investigation by the Welsh Heads of Trading Standards (WHOTS) has discovered many traders across the UK are selling games with an 18 classification to children via popular Internet auction websites.

The survey, carried out by the Trading Standards Services at six local authorities in Wales, found nearly 90 per cent of traders tested supplied violent games to youngsters.

Each authority enlisted a volunteer aged between 12 and 16 who attempted to buy 18-rated video games on the Internet using postal orders.

Of the 44 test purchases attempted, 38 traders sold the games to the children assisting the authorities. This represents a failure rate of 86 per cent.

Games purchased during the project included Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto, Godfather and Hitman - all of which carry a BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) classification of 18 because they contain scenes of a very violent nature.

Traders face severe penalties for supplying such games to an underage person. A person found guilty is liable to be jailed for up to six months and/or fined.

Lee Jones, acting head of Trading Standards, Bridgend County Borough Council, said: 'This survey shows how easily children can gain access to age-restricted, violent video games.

'Traders who use auction sites and accept postal orders as payment have no method of determining whether the person they are selling to is aged 18 or over.'

Brandon Cook, TSI lead officer for age restricted sales, said: 'Traders selling goods over the internet have a responsibility to make sure they have methods in place to avoid breaking the law by making underage sales.

'If traders cannot be sure the person they are selling to is over 18, then they should not be selling.

'There are a number of companies out there that will run age checks on customers for internet traders. These services are very quick and relatively cheap.'

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'The TSI takes an active role in helping internet traders avoid making underage sales by giving out advice and guidance to businesses.

'I would urge traders who need help in this area to contact their local Trading Standards Service for information and support.

'Parents and guardians also have an important role to play in making sure their children are not playing unsuitable video games.'

The survey was completed under the umbrella of the Trading Standards Wales NETWISE initiative. NETWISE aims to develop and maintain a coordinated approach to Internet enforcement within Wales.

Notes to Editors

A press briefing and photo opportunity with examples of the violent video games purchased during this survey will take place at 1.30pm on Wednesday 25th June at the WHOTS stand at the TSI conference in the Bournemouth International Centre

The six authorities who took part in the survey were Anglesey, Caerphilly, Newport, Wrexham, Rhondha Cynon Taff and Bridgend.

The BBFC indicates that games and DVDs classified at '15' and '18' 'will contain a focus on 'strong violence with realisitic injury detail, strong horror, language, sex references and depictions of sexual activity.'

Businesses commit an offence under the Video Recordings Act 1984 whenever they sell to a child a video game that carries a statutory age restriction of 18 years. A person guilty of an offence under section 11 of this act is liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding level five on the standard scale, or both.

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists!
The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.

Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.