ESRB to institute $1m game-ratings fine

Industry ratings board raises the maximum penalties for publishers who fail to disclose objectionable content.

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Last week, the Federal Trade Commission issued a ruling on its nearly yearlong investigation into the "Hot Coffee" sex-minigame scandal concerning Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The FTC concluded that the game's publisher, Take-Two Interactive, "failed to disclose important information about the game's content to consumers," and said it would fine the company if it did so again.

The FTC isn't the only group deceptive publishers will have to answer to, as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has raised the cap on what it can fine companies for deception and lack of disclosure.

In her opening statements to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection hearing on violent and sexually explicit games today, ESRB president Patricia Vance told lawmakers that the ratings board has "enhanced" its enforcement system, and will soon be able to fine companies up to $1 million for failing to disclose objectionable content during the game-ratings process.

On top of that, repeat offenders could have their ratings services revoked entirely. Not carrying a rating can be a severe impediment to a game's success as well: Most major national retailers, such as Wal-Mart and GameStop, will not carry unrated or AO for Adults Only-rated games.

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