As previously revealed
on Gamasutra, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), along with several major retailers and game trade associations, has detailed its 'Commitment To Parents' initiative in a Washington press briefing.
The alliance between the ESRB and retailers includes giving parents the ability to return or exchange games sold to their children in violation of ESRB policies, and educating customers about ESRB video game ratings. The commitment was announced at a press conference on Capitol Hill with Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), George Allen (R-VA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), ESRB president Patricia Vance, National PTA deputy executive director Kimberly Barnes-O'Connor, Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) president Bo Andersen and Entertainment Software Association (ESA) president Doug Lowenstein.
The new ESRB initiative also includes an increased commitment aimed at enhancing compliance with store enforcement policies regarding the sale of Mature-rated video games, no doubt stemming from the bevy of recent legislation
concerning the topic, as well as the controversy surrounding in-game content.
"The ESRB Retail Council's 'Commitment to Parents' represents a tremendous and concrete step forward by retailers to vigorously enforce their store policies, address customer complaints and help ensure that consumers, especially parents, make informed purchase decisions for their families," said ESRB president Patricia E. Vance. "While retailers have individually made great and laudable strides in both store policy enforcement and consumer education, the ERC enables leading retailers to work together to improve compliance and better serve their customers."
"National PTA commends the ESRB for joining forces with major video game retailers to continue improving the enforcement of ESRB ratings. National PTA supports the 'Commitment to Parents' and feels it will help parents monitor children's exposure to electronic media," said Anna Weselak, National PTA president. "The goal is for parents to make informed decisions on media and technology for their children and families."
The ESRB Retail Council (ERC), which represents over 20,000 retail locations and includes outlets such as Best Buy, Blockbuster, Circuit City, GameStop/EB Games, Movie Gallery/Hollywood Video/Game Crazy, Target, and Wal-Mart, has agreed to enforce store policies governing the sale of video games, as well as implement a ratings education programs and in-store signage. ERC members also agreed to participate in two "mystery shopper" audits each year to measure and track the level of sales policy enforcement, train store associates about ESRB ratings and game sales procedures/policies, provide ESRB ratings in circulars, on websites and in other promotional vehicles, establish a mechanism for consumer redress for non-compliance with sales procedures/policies, and share best practices with other members.
"We're deeply proud of the dedication and enthusiasm with which the ERC member retailers continue to work toward ensuring that video game rentals and sales are conducted responsibly," said Bo Andersen, president of the Entertainment Merchants Association. "This comprehensive program demonstrates in the most tangible way how truly genuine their commitment is, and parents will recognize benefit from it."
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that retailers are increasingly enforcing their voluntary restriction of M-rated games sales. In its most recent mystery shopper study, the FTC found that national retailers refused to sell M-rated games to minors 65 percent of the time, which closely matches the level of restriction for movie theaters, which has been considered the "gold standard."