Protection of minors - Video Games
Communication on protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games.
Video games are one of the favourite leisure activities of Europeans of different ages and social categories. There are also promising opportunities for a strong interactive games industry in Europe, which is already the fastest growing and most dynamic sector in the European content industry, and has a higher growth rate than in the US, half the revenue of the music market and more than the cinema box office in Europe. The rapid growth of on-line video games is also a key driver for the uptake of broadband telecommunications networks and third generation cellular phones. All this makes video games a front-rank medium, with the result that freedom of expression for both creators and gamers is a paramount concern.
However, - because of the potential psychological effects of video games on minors - this must be balanced by high standards of protection. The fact that video games are increasingly played by adults and played jointly by children and parents demands in particular differentiated levels of access to video games for minors and adults.
Amongst several other EU initiatives in related fields, the rating by age group and the labelling of certain video and computer games were already the subject of a Council Resolution in 2002.
With its Communication, the Commission is replying to the Council's call for a review of the various methods used for assessing the content of video and computer games and to report back to the Council. For this purpose, a questionnaire was sent to all Member States. The questions covered age rating/content rating systems, the sale of video games by retailers, video game bans, effectiveness of current measures, on-line video games and a cross-platform and pan-European rating system. All 27 Member States replied.
Video games are one of the favourite leisure activities of Europeans of different ages and social categories
According to the information received from the Member States, the PEGI system is currently applied by 20 Member States. Two Member States (Germany and Lithuania) have specific binding legislation while Malta relies on general legislation. However, four Member States (Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia) have no system in place. 15 Member States have legislation concerning the sale of video games with harmful content to minors in shops, although the scope of laws varies between Member States. Until now, four countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, UK) have banned certain violent video games.
Adopted in 2003, PEGI labels provide an age rating and warnings such as violence or bad language, empowering parents to decide which game is appropriate for their children, as well as adult gamers to better choose their games. PEGI is supported by the major console manufacturers in Europe. PEGI Online was launched in 2007, co-funded by the EU's Safer Internet Programme (IP/08/310), in response to the rapid growth of online video games.
The Communication, bearing in mind the value of video games in promoting cultural diversity:
Calls upon the Member States to recognise that video games have become a front-rank medium and to ensure that high standards of freedom of expression and effective, proportionate measures for the protection of minors should apply and mutually reinforce each other.
Consequently, calls upon the Member States to integrate into their national systems the information and classification system put in place in the framework of the PEGI and PEGI On-line initiatives.
Calls upon the video games and consoles industry to further improve the PEGI and PEGI On-line systems and in particular regularly to update the criteria for age rating and labelling, to advertise PEGI more actively and to increase the list of signatories.
Recognises that on-line videogames bring new challenges, such as effective age verification systems and possible dangers for young consumers related to chat rooms associated with these games, and calls upon Member States and stakeholders to work together on innovative solutions.
Calls upon Member States and stakeholders to evaluate the possible negative and positive effects of video games, notably on health.
Calls upon all stakeholders involved in the sale of videogames in retail shops to agree within two years on a Pan-European Code of conduct on the sale of games to minors and on commitments to raise awareness of the PEGI system among parents and children, as well as to ensure adequate resources to implement the provisions of this Code.
Encourages the Member States and all stakeholders to take initiatives to improve media literacy applied to video games, in line with the Commission Communication of 20 December 2007.
Welcomes and supports further efforts to achieve a self-regulatory or co-regulatory cross-media, pan-European age-rating system. The Commission intends in particular to organise meetings of classification bodies to exchange best practices in this field.
Intends to use existing networks of and platforms with Consumer organisations in order to raise public awareness on PEGI and on the recommendations in this Communication.
Fact Sheet (October 2008)
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games - 22 April 2008 - COM(2008) 207 final
Press release (April 2008)
Council Resolution on the protection of consumers, in particular young people, through the labelling of certain video games and computer games according to age group, 2 March 2002 (2002/C65/02), OJ C65, 14.3.2002, p.2.