Top High Street Stores filmed agreeing to sell violent video games to underage child
An exclusive report by ITV Daybreak has found some of the UK’s top high street and gaming chains were prepared to sell violent 18 or 16 certificate computer games to a 15 year old without asking for ID.
In an undercover report, teenager John (pictured) wore a hidden camera whilst shopping in eight different stores for video games in his hometown of Bristol.
In each store he asked to buy Call of Duty (18) and Halo (16) or equivalent certificate games if they were out of stock.
Whilst undercover, John shopped in Tesco, Asda, John Lewis, Argos and two different Gamescene and Game stores. No final transactions were made due to John’s age.
Asda was the only store in which John was refused either game when he was not able to produce any ID.
Five stores were prepared to sell the more violent 18 certificate game without being asked for ID (Gamescene - Regent St, Gamescene - Fishponds Road, Tesco - Eastgate Road, John Lewis - Cribs Causeway, Game - The Galleries and although two of the stores (Argos - The Mall, Game - Cribs Causeway) refused to sell him an 18 certificate game without ID they still agreed to sell him a 16 certificate game.
In response to the investigation, the stores that were prepared to sell the video games without ID have either said they will review procedures or will organise more training for staff.
Speaking to Daybreak, Mark Williams-Thomas who led the investigation, said: “I was surprised, very surprised that it was so easy to be able to get hold of these games, particularly the 18 rating game. You know that boy there (John) whilst you could say he was 16 he certainly didn’t look 18 and the issue of course for the stores is that for most of them there is a reminder that comes up on the till in order for them to validate, to check ID.
“In response to the stores they all said, those ones that did sell it, and we have to be very clear that Asda didn't at all, but for those who did sell it you know it was a learning point and what they’ve all said, they responded individually - John Lewis, Gamescene have said they’re disappointed, they have launched an investigation along with Game. Tesco said they were very sorry they’re reminding all their staff to check ID, Argos have said they’ll add additional training.” (NB Full responses at the end of this release)
Kim Bayley from the Entertainment Retailers Association: “As a parent I’m very surprised that actually seven out of eight retailers didn’t stop the child buying it. As a retail association I’m really disappointed and I know all of our members are very disappointed that their training obviously hadn’t translated in store. And we invest a huge amount of money as a retail association and our retailers in training our staff, in putting till prompts which give messages to the staff members ‘please check the ID of this person’ or ‘please note this is age restricted’ and I know that all the retailers will be reviewing their training and will be looking at refreshing the training with their staff members.”
Notes to editors:
Responses from each store:
Store didn't have Call of Duty Black ops II or Halo 4.
But they were prepared to sell John Gods of War Saga(18) and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (16)
STATEMENT: “We are legally required to train all of our selling Partners (staff) on how to handle age restricted sales. It is mandatory that they undergo this training when they first join and refresher training takes place annually.
“Before the Partner completes a transaction, a prompt will appear on screen at the point a product which has an age restriction on it is scanned, reminding them to check and ensure that the customer is over the required age. Without seeing the footage it is impossible to say how far they got with this particular transaction and whether or not the Partner would have got as far as to see this prompt. However, we are deeply disappointed that this has happened and will proactively remind all Partners of the age restricted policies, particularly at the branch in question.”
2 stores: Both were prepared to sell him Call of Duty Black Ops II (18) and Halo 4 (16) without asking for ID
STATEMENT: “Thank you for the opportunity to reply. Gamescene is a responsible retailer and we take our legal obligations very seriously. Staff receive training to ensure that they understand age ratings and that they are adhered to. Our failure to meet those standards in these incidents is very disappointing. A full investigation will be conducted, and we will take appropriate action to ensure that it does not happen again.”
2 stores - the Cribs Causeway store asked John how old his was - he told them. They were unsure so refused to sell him Call of Duty Black Ops (18) but were prepared to sell him Halo 4 (16). The Galleries store agreed to sell John Call of Duty Black Ops II and Halo 4.
STATEMENT: “We are investigating what has happened in these two stores. GAME has worked closely in recent years with the Video Standards Council (VSC), of which we are a member, to improve standards of age related sales training within the industry. All our staff are trained to request ID for purchases on games rated 12, 16, or 18 wherever there is any doubt of a customer’s age. We take our role as a responsible retailer very seriously and refresher training on the age rating system takes place every 3 months.”
Asked for ID then refused to sell him either game.
STATEMENT: “We’re pleased that it’s been recognised that when it comes to age restricted goods Asda takes its responsibilities very seriously.”
Agreed to sell him Borderlands 2 (18) (Call of Duty Black Ops was not in stock) and Halo 4 without questioning him.
STATEMENT: “All of our staff are trained to follow the ‘Think 21’ process for all age-classified video games sales and ask all customers who appear under 21 for proof of age. Our tills also display a prompt when a customer attempts to purchase an age-classified video game. We’re very sorry that on this occasion this process was not followed and we are currently investigating with the store. We will also be reminding all colleagues of the importance of following this process for all sales.”
Asked John if he had ID. They then refused to sell him Call of Duty Black Ops II (18+) but they agreed to sell him Halo 4 (16+).
Argos is committed to ensuring that customers are sold products which are appropriate to their age. We have strict policies and processes regarding the sale of Age Restricted items and we undertake regular training with store employees. Our Age Restricted policy has been audited by our Primary Authority, Milton Keynes Trading Standards Department who are satisfied that it represents adequate precautions and due diligence. When the Daybreak volunteer visited our Broadmead store in Bristol, the cashier involved followed the correct process for an age 18 rated product sale which resulted in the purchase being declined. This included following the till prompt, asking for identification and seeking concurrence from a member of the management team.
In the case of the age 16 rated product sale, the cashier correctly followed the initial till prompt and taking into account the customer’s height, dress and general appearance, genuinely believed that they were the appropriate age for the product and completed the sale. A judgement of this nature is highly subjective and we accept that it would have been wrong to complete the sale on this occasion. We will be addressing this through a thorough review of our processes and additional training at the store to avoid this happening in the future.