In the recent Digital Britain report, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced that the UK would fully adopt the PEGI rating system for video games, making it legally enforceable on the three highest ratings--12+, 16+, and 18+. Currently only ratings by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are legally enforceable, thanks to the Video Recordings Act (VRA) of 1984, under which retailers can be punished with a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in prison.
However, it now appears that the Video Recordings Act is no longer legally enforceable, thanks to a legal blunder by the UK government 25 years ago. The BBC is reporting that the then-government failed to notify the European commission about the Act, meaning dozens of current prosecutions have had to be dropped.
The error means that it is impossible to prosecute offenders until the law is passed again, which can take up to three months. Culture, Media and Sport Minister Barbara Follett has written to industry bodies, informing them that "unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts." A Government spokesperson has said that retailers have voluntarily agreed to keep to the rules, while previous prosecutions will still stand.
The mistake was discovered during work on the UK government's Digital Britain project, which aims to boost broadband use and promote new media such as video games in the UK. As well as moving towards adoption of the PEGI system, the government has also formed an all parliamentary group for the computer and video games industry to champion game development in the UK.