Vidgame warnings

Sens. say retailers' ratings enforcement lax

WASHINGTON — Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery are among 34 retail chains receiving letters from Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) criticizing retailers for lax enforcement of videogame ratings.

The letters were prompted by the Federal Trade Commission’s recent follow-up report on the marketing of violent entertainment programming to children and a new report issued by the National Institute for Media and the Family. Both found that children under 17 were able to purchase and rent M-rated games at a wide variety of retail outlets.

“We write to express our serious concern about the retail community’s lack of action with respect to the enforcement of interactive entertainment ratings,” the letter says. “Over the past year, a number of national retail chains have enacted policies to restrict the sale of Mature-rated games to children. However, it appears those policies have often not made it from paper to practice.”

No legislation

Although the letter urges retailers to adopt an industrywide policy on enforcement of ratings, the senators stopped short of threatening legislation to impose such a policy.

The 34 retailers were among a group identified by the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Assn. (IEMA) as comprising the bulk of the vidgame rental and sale market.

Wal-Mart, Target and Sears were singled out by the senators for their strong enforcement of game ratings. Sears does not sell M-rated games, while Wal-Mart and Target have policies of requiring IDs and parent permission to purchase them.

In addition to the three video chains, letters are being sent to Best Buy, Circuit City, Media Play, Hastings Entertainment, Toys R Us, Electronics Boutique, Wherehouse and the Wiz.

“We were very disappointed with Senator Lieberman’s presentation,” said Hollywood Video senior VP and general counsel Eric English. “He named a couple of retailers as doing a good job, but we think we’ve been doing a very good job as well. Unfortunately, he made it sound as if everybody but those two or three retailers is doing a poor job.”

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