(note: this PTC secret shopper survey is not related to the one conducted by Baltimore's ABC-2 that GamePolitics has reported on over the past couple of days)
Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued a secret shopper report in which video game retailers fared noticeably worse than in results issued by the Federal Trade Commission in April.
Overall, the PTC claims that game retailers sold M-rated titles to underage buyers 36% of the time. As reported by GamePolitics, the FTC's secret shoppers succeeded in buying M-rated games at only a 20% rate.
As in the the FTC study, GameStop and Best Buy did very well, according to the PTC. Both retailers sold to underage buyers just 8% of the time. Circuit City (60%), K-Mart (50%), Hollywood Video (50%) and various local and regional stores (47%) compiled the worst results.
PTC president Tim Winter (left) was harshly critical of the video game industry in the PTC's press release:
...a disturbing percentage of video game retailers are failing to prevent America’s children from purchasing violent and sexually graphic video games. Any failure rate is problematic, but the failure rate we’re seeing is downright pathetic. Similar to age restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other products that are potentially harmful to children, parents deserve a reasonable expectation that age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level.
It is outrageous that retailers are not exercising greater responsibility, and even more absurd that there are no meaningful consequences for those retailers who ignore their industry’s own age restriction policies...
The video game industry would have us believe that the 1/5 failure rate as reported by the FTC is acceptable and that parents need not worry. Our analysis shows a 1/3 failure rate. Perhaps the retailers felt the pressure was off after the FTC’s report was published... While we applaud Game Stop and Best Buy for their commitment to abide by their corporate age restriction policies, the other retailers should be ashamed and must act immediately to improve.
Winter also used the report as a platform to support new legislation introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). The bill targets video game ratings. GamePolitics coverage of the bill is upcoming.
Here is the data on various retailers as issued by the PTC (updated, as Blockbuster was left off of their original version):
M-RATED VIDEO GAMES
PTC Results (July 2008)
# of Stores
% Able to Purchase
Toys “R” Us
Various Local & Regional Stores