Three High Street shops have been caught selling 18-rated video games depicting sex and violence to a 15-year-old girl in an undercover investigation by Which? magazine’s Computing desk.
Woolworths, Game and Maplin all allowed the teenager to buy age-restricted games, showing ‘scenes of extreme brutality’, on the High Street.
Six other shops – Tesco, Argos, Debenhams, HMV, Currys Digital and local shop Entertainment Exchange – all refused the teenager, who tested stores in Harrow, Middlesex.
Woolworths sold Grand Theft Auto (GTA): Vice City Stories to the youngster, whilst specialist shop GAME sold Condemned 2, subtitled a terrifying descent into chaos”, to the girl without question.
In the Maplin store, the assistant asked the investigator’s age, but didn’t refuse the sale of Hitman, even when she said she was 15.
The maximum penalty for selling BBFC-rated rpoduct to underage consumers is 5,000 and/or six months’ jail.
All three stores are investigating the findings and say that under-age sales are rare.
Sarah Kidner, Editor of Which? Computing said:
It’s shocking and surprising that 18-rated games have been sold to a child as young as 15 by household names. The jury’s still out on whether violent video games have a negative influence on behaviour but, whatever your view, it’s still illegal to sell 18-rated games to minors.”
Ash Shah, assistant head of Brent and Harrow Council trading standards, added:
Staff should realise that they have a moral and legal duty to stop these sales from taking place. There is a mixed but growing body of evidence that very violent games like this can sometimes influence under-age players with reports of anti social behaviour linked to them, in extreme cases even fatalities.”