The Video Standards Council (VSC) issued a press release today announcing details on how the PEGI ratings system will work in the United Kingdom when it replaces the current ratings system used in the region to rate video game content. The VSC said that it issued the statement today to provide "greater clarity" on how their position as the new UK regulator for video games will affect future video game regulations in the country.
First they say that video games rated PEGI 3 and 7 will remain "advisory," but games in higher rating categories such as PEGI 12, 16 and 18 will become "mandatory and enforceable under the law." Games rated under these categories cannot be sold to individuals below the age-restriction shown on the packaging. If retailers make the mistake of selling games to an individual who is not in the prescribed age group," it "may result in heavy fines or, in severe cases, even imprisonment." VSC notes that these rules apply to "online retailers as well as high street stores."
Mandatory age-ratings for video games are nothing new for UK retailers who have already had to deal with games classified 15 and 18 (and some classified 12) by the BBFC. Mandatory PEGI ratings should place no significant additional burden on retailers; PEGI ratings have essentially been treated as legally enforceable by many retailers for some years.
Since PEGI and VSC are not enforcement agencies, they will pass on any reported breaches of the law to Trading Standards Officials, who will handle prosecutions.
Finally, VCS says that video games containing "very explicit sexual material" that would have had to seek a BBFC R18 (Restricted 18) will still have to be submitted to the BBFC for classification.
The new regulations do not apply to video games that were already on the market prior to the formal designation of the VSC as statutory regulator.