Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questions (330, 331, 332)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

330. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which the pan European gaming information system or other age rating systems for video games is incorporated into Irish law; the penalties applying to retailers that sell games with a specific age rating to children below that age; the legislation in which this is set down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9619/18]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

331. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the statutory body or bodies with responsibility for the age rating of video games. [9620/18]

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Róisín Shortall

Question:

332. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the way in which video games and gaming are regulated in terms of content, age rating, sale to minors, purchase of online upgrades, the prevalence of gambling and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9623/18]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 to 332, inclusive, together.

The legislation dealing with the sale and/or distribution of video games is the Video Recordings Act 1989. Video games are exempted works for classification purposes unless they fall within the terms provided for in section 3(1)(a) or (b), which covers the grounds for the prohibition of works.

Ireland is part of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system, which is a Europe-wide rating system with regard to video games. The Director of the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) is on the council of PEGI.

PEGI is not incorporated into Irish law. It is a European self-regulation initiative set up in 2003 to rate video games on the basis of age classification. These classifications are then subject to independent verification before a supply licence is issued to the publisher. Video games are classified by age appropriateness at the following age levels: 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+.

I understand that it is now normal practice for IFCO to view video games which are rated as 18+ to allow the Director of Film Classification to form an opinion as to whether such games fall within the terms provided for in section 3(1)(a) or (b) of the Video Recordings Act 1989.

A key component of video game arrangements is that the classification systems set out above are designed to provide useful information as to the content of the product. In particular, the intention is to assist parents/guardians in making informed choices concerning the media they acquire for their children or which they permit their children to use.

In the context of the Questions raised by the Deputy, I take the reference to “prevalence of gambling” as relating to “in app purchases” or “loot boxes” which appear in video games to enable a player to increase the chance of success in the game. There is no element of gambling involved in such purchases. These purchases do not involve placing a bet or the taking of risk either on a party to party or exchange basis. I understand that such purchases, as an e-Commerce activity, are the responsibility of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.