FTC Study: Buying NC-17 Movies Easier For Teens Than Buying M Games

The Federal Trade Commission today released the results of its latest nationwide undercover shop of movie theaters and movie, music, and video game retailers.

The FTC conducted a survey with 13-to-16-year-old undercover shoppers to collect data about the extent to which retailers prevent unaccompanied children from buying tickets to R-rated movies, R-rated DVDs, Unrated DVDs of movies that were R-rated in theaters, M-rated video games, and music CDs labeled with a Parental Advisory Label - "PAL" - for explicit content.

The survey found that 20% of underage teenage shoppers were able to buy M-rated video games, a major improvement from all prior surveys, and down from 42% in 2006. While CD and DVD retailers demonstrated some improvement since the 2006 survey, roughly half of the undercover shoppers still were able to purchase R-rated and Unrated movie DVDs and PAL music CDs.

"The fact that so many children were able to purchase Unrated movie DVDs - some of which contain content that, if rated, might result in an NC-17 rating - indicates that retailers need to re-double their efforts in this area", stated the FTC. Although movie theaters have improved since the 2000 shop, they still sold R-rated movie tickets to unaccompanied children 35% of the time, demonstrating no statistically significant improvement in ratings enforcement since 2003.

With regard to M-rated video games, Game Stop rejected an impressive 94% of underage shoppers, while Wal-Mart and Best Buy spurned 80% of them. Some stores had very different results for different media. For example, while Best Buy rejected 80% of underage buyers of video games, it turned away underage shoppers for PAL music only 47% of the time, R-rated movie DVDs only 38% of the time, and Unrated movie DVDs only 17% of the time. Similarly, Target refused to sell M-rated games to underage buyers 71% of the time, but refused sales of PAL music only 40% of the time, R-rated movie DVDs only 35% of the time, and Unrated movie DVDs in only 23% of the cases.

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