The French parliament is currently discussing a draft bill that may make mandatory the use of PEGI ratings in video games. This proposition is included in the bill on the modernisation and the simplification of procedures in justice and internal affairs.
Article 32 of French Act n°98-468 of 17 June 1998 on the prevention and repression of sexual offences and protection of minors requires the display of age and content ratings on video game packaging when such video games may present a risk for youth due to the place given to crime, violence, encouraging use, possession and sale of narcotics, encouraging drinking as well as discrimination or hatred against a person or a particular group of persons. Pursuant to this law a new committee was created to implement such rating system. However, this committee never reached a resolution with respect to content ratings for video games and the Act from 1998 thus remained a dead letter.
The French government decided earlier this year to acknowledge the work done by the operators of the industry and announced its intention to “consecrate the current practice which is unanimously recognized as efficient and legible for the public and that is the PEGI system for video games”.
During the pending parliamentary sessions, the French government thus stressed that it seemed “more appropriate to approve a posteriori the rating system implemented by the actors of the sector than to give the public authorities the mission to define a rating system”. Should the bill be adopted by French parliament, article 32 of the 1998 Act will now provide that the content rating system for video games shall be approved by a competent French authority, such rating system being PEGI which will then become mandatory.
Accordingly, failure to comply with article 32 of the 1998 Act on video games ratings, as modified by this bill, will now be punishable, the Act providing for a fine up to 15.000 Euros per violation. The date of final adoption of the bill is not yet known.
It is interesting to note that this position in France confirms the European-wide trend towards Member States regulating the issue of video game content rating rather than maintaining the industry self-regulation in place since many years, although the adoption of the PEGI system as a legal norm is a recognition of both the positive work carried out by the industry on this use and its dialogue with government.