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The government is to toughen videogame sales regulations and introduce a legally enforceable 12 rating.

The Video Recordings (Labelling) Regulations (VRLRs) 2012 will put videogame classification solely in the hands of the Video Standards Council, an organisation formed to review video packaging.

Under the new regulations, the VSC will continue to set a game's age rating using the Pan-European Game Information (Pegi) system, an international ratings scheme, as it has done since 2010.

But from July, when the VRLRs are expected to come into force, games with photo-realistic graphics will no longer need be classified by the British Board of Film Classification too. The familiar BBFC ratings will then disappear from future games releases.

Pegi ratings

As the BBFC does now, the VSC will have the power to effectively ban the sale of a game by refusing to give the title an age rating. Selling a game that is not exempt from classification but has not yet been rated is against the law.

And, for the first time, the 12 rating will become legally enforceable alongside 16 and 18, rather than merely a guide for parents. Sell a 12-rated to an underage buyer and the retailer risks a prison sentence of up to six months and a five-grand fine.

If a retailer is caught selling a game that should have a rating but doesn't, such as an imported copy, the fine increases and potential jail time goes up to two years.

The move will please Labour MP Keith Vaz who has long campaigned against violent videogames and recently voiced his opinion that the Pegi system is ineffective. ®

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