Yesteday's secret shopper study results released by the Federal Trade Commission delivered encouraging news about retail compliance with ESRB's video game rating guidelines.
Retailers were quick to react. Hal Halpin, president of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA), the trade association which represents 75% of the retail sector, issued a press release in response to the FTC study results. The IEMA release reads, in part:
"(The FTC study) shows dramatic improvement in retail enforcement of computer and video game ratings over the past five years, a result applauded by the IEMA... The rate at which minors were able to purchase Mature-rated games dropped from 85% in 2000 to today's level of 35% for IEMA member companies."
"I am exceedingly proud of our member companies and their commitment to self-regulation in stemming the sale of Mature-rated games to minors," said IEMA president Hal Halpin (seen at left).
"The FTC's results very clearly indicate that the nation's leading retailers of games have steadily improved and are quickly approaching the compliance rates of the Gold Standard, movie theatre owners. In the two years since our carding policy, we have made significant and tangible progress... And with the industry responding in such a visible and proactive fashion, it is clear that legislative efforts are simply not required."
Halpin also noted a significant improvement in retailer I.D. checks, or "carding" of underage secret shoppers, which jumped from 15% in 2000 to 50% in 2005. The number of retailers providing ratings information to customers also rose dramatically, from 12% to 44% between the 2000 and 2005 surveys. IEMA member stores did even better, carding kids 55% of the time, and posting ESRB info 51% of the time.
Doug Lowenstein of the ESA weighed in on the FTC results, saying, "Today's FTC shopping survey results affirm what we've been saying, which is that voluntary retail enforcement of video game ratings works, and that retailers are genuinely dedicated to making their enforcement policies succeed. The fact is retail enforcement of video game ratings is now equal to or even better than that of any other media. With that said, retailers must continue to move forward with these important efforts, and we know they remain committed to even higher enforcement levels in the months ahead."
ESRB president Pat Vance added, "The significant, across-the-board increases in retailer enforcement and
education indicate strong support of ESRB ratings, particularly among national retailers, which account for 90% of total game sales. Store policy compliance has improved three-fold since 2000 when the FTC first conducted these studies, and we will continue to work with retailers in their efforts to train store associates and educate their customers about ESRB ratings."