Europe demands code for game retailers within two years

The European Commission has ordered the computer games industry to come up with a voluntary code of conduct within two years to stop children having access to violent computer games.

Information Society and Media Commissioner Vivianne Reding has told the industry that a code of conduct for retailers must be in place within two years, so that existing ratings systems are better known.

The Commission has found that 20 of the EU's 27 countries use the Pan European Games Information (PEGI) system for classifying games by age. While three countries apply legislation to the area four countries have no system in place at all to regulate the access of young people to games.

"All consumers need clear, accurate information to make informed choices. But this is particularly about children – some of the most vulnerable consumers in society," said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. "And our clear message today is that industry and national authorities must go further to ensure that all parents have the power to make the right decisions for themselves and their child."

Only four of the EU's member nations have banned violent computer games. These are the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy.

In the UK PEGI is used by industry for most games, but those containing sexual or grossly violent material are subject to the approval of film censors the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which can give a game one of its age-related classifications.

If the BBFC refuses to classify a game then supplying it can be punishable with unlimited fines and two years in jail.

The BBFC recently refused to classify the controversial game Manhunt 2. The Video Appeals Committee rejected its view and a modified version of the game was given an 18 certificate in March of this year.

The first game to be banned in the UK was Carmaggedon in 1997. Again, a modified version was eventually given a release.

The countries with no system in place at all are Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia.

PEGI provides an age rating and makes specific warnings about violent content or bad language.

"PEGI, as an example of responsible industry self-regulation and the only such system with almost pan-European coverage, is certainly a very good first step," said Reding. "However, I believe it can be greatly improved, in Europe and beyond, by making the public more aware about its existence and fully implementing PEGI Online. I also call on Member States and the industry to govern the sale of video games in shops to respect the fundamental need to protect minors."

Reding wants the industry to do more to promote and raise awareness of PEGI, for EU countries to make PEGI a part of their own classification systems, for countries to co-operate on age verification systems, and for the industry to create the code of conduct for retailers within two years.