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PEGI CODE OF CONDUCT
FOR THE EUROPEAN VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY REGARDING AGE RATING LABELLING, PROMOTION AND ADVERTISING OF GAMES AND OTHER INTERACTIVE SOFTWARE PRODUCTS AND MAINTENANCE OF SAFE ONLINE GAMEPLAY
Article 1: SCOPE
1.1 The present Code shall apply to all interactive software Products including video products, computer products and education/reference works, distributed for retail sale by all publishers or other organisations which sign an agreement with ISFE to comply with this Code.
1.2 This Code shall also, where practicable, cover all Products distributed electronically by whatever means, such as via the Internet or mobile telephony including on-line retailing of packaged products and on-line distribution of products which, in each case, are intended for play in territories where the PEGI System applies.
1.3 The rules contained in this Code shall apply to the labelling of interactive software Products, as well as to associated advertising and promotion by any means.
1.4 The rules contained in this Code shall, where indicated, also apply to Products which offer Online Gameplay (‘Online Gameplay Environments’).
1.5 All capitalised terms in this Code have the meanings given to them in the standard PEGI Agreement between ISFE and Publishers unless otherwise indicated in this Code.
Article 2: PURPOSE
This Code reflects the interactive software industry’s commitment and concern both to provide information to the public on the content of interactive software products in a responsible manner and also to ensure safe online gameplay for children. This industry’s contribution complements existing national laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms.
2.1 Firstly, this Code is intended to provide parents and educators with objective, intelligible and reliable information regarding the minimum age for which a given product is deemed suitable with specific reference to its content. The voluntary ratings implemented under the Code in no way relate to the difficulty of an interactive software product or the level of skill required to play it.
2.2 Secondly, this Code is intended to ensure that all advertising, marketing and promotion of interactive software products is conducted in a responsible manner.
2.3 Thirdly, this Code reflects the interactive software industry’s commitment not to distribute market, advertise or promote interactive software products likely to offend human decency.
2.4 Fourthly, this Code reflects the interactive software industry’s commitment to provide a safe environment where children utilise interactive software products online.
Article 3: INSTRUMENTS
In order to fulfill the objectives spelled out in Article 2, nine principal instruments are hereby outlined:
3.1 The PEGI System operated by PEGI S.A. (see 3.3 below) with the assistance of the Administrator resulting in the granting of licenses to use the Logos and Descriptors. PEGI retains at all times the right to rescind or recall any Logo or Descriptor assigned to a product.
3.2 An Online Safety system to be known as “PEGI Online ” which shall, where practicable, apply to Products offering Online Gameplay and will result in the granting of licences to use the PEGI Online Logo.
3.3 PEGI S.A. (“PEGI”) a Belgian not for profit company with a social purpose and entrusted by ISFE with the day to day management, supervision and development of the PEGI and PEGI Online Systems.
3.4 A Management Board (“PMB”) consisting of a chairperson, the PEGI Managing Director, representatives from industry, the chairs of the PEGI Council and the Experts Group charged with giving guidance to the PEGI Managing Director on the operation and development of the PEGI and PEGI Online Systems.
3.5. A Council (“PC”) and Experts Group (“PEG”) including representatives from chief stakeholders (parents, consumers associations, child psychology experts, academics, media experts and the interactive software industry - see Article 12 below) These bodies will advise on the continuing adjustment of the Code to take account of social, political, legal and technological developments. The PEG shall be in charge of considering technical developments (in all fields) that may impact the PEGI and PEGI Online Systems.
3.6 A Complaints Board (“PCB”) including, in the same manner as the PC, representatives from chief stakeholders, (see Article 13 below) and entrusted with the two following tasks:
- handling possible complaints about the consistency of advertising, marketing and promotional activities of any Signatory with any age rating finally attributed or likely to be attributed under the PEGI System.
- handling conflicts about the PEGI System age ratings themselves including any Signatory or consumer complaints about those ratings.
3.7. An Enforcement Committee (“PEC”) including, in the same manner as the PC, representatives from chief stakeholders which is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the PMB, and, more generally, of seeing to the enforcement of the rules and sanctions included in the present Code, including decisions of the PCB (see Article 14 below).
3.8 A Legal Committee (“PLC”) in charge of securing the ongoing coherence of the PEGI System with national legal frameworks.
Article 4: PEGI’s COMMITMENT TO THE CODE
PEGI hereby commits to:
4.1 ensure that the PEGI and PEGI Online Systems are operated as efficiently as possible by an independent administrator.
4.2 ensure comprehensive, thorough awareness and understanding of the Code and its purpose by all participants in the industry, including Signatories and developers, wholesalers, retailers, internet service providers, trade media and advertising companies.
4.3 implement and maintain the appropriate structures to carry out the tasks of interpreting and updating this Code, making it public in cooperation with national trade associations, settling disputes, and conducting studies and reports about the products concerned.
4.4 initiate any additional operations necessary to support the purposes of the Code.
Article 5: OBLIGATIONS OF SIGNATORIES
5.1 abide by all decisions made by the PCB and PEC and provide all appropriate information to the PC and PEG which oversees the implementation of this Code.
5.2 assist PEGI in delivering on its own commitments as stated in Article 4 above including endorsing and publicising the Code where necessary.
5.3 when concluding new terms and conditions of sale with distributors and wholesalers of their Product, include a term providing that those distributors and wholesalers, by way of a standard clause in their respective terms and conditions of sale with retailers (example below), recommend that those retailers and their employees, when engaged in face to face transaction with customers, ensure compliance with the PEGI Retail Code (see Annex B) and, in particular, do not sell Product to those customers in contravention of the specified PEGI age rating.
Sample Standard Clause: 'The Distributor (Wholesaler) recommends to the Retailer that they and their employees, when engaged in face to face transactions with customers, comply with the PEGI Retail Code and, in particular, do not sell Product to those customers in contravention of the specified PEGI age rating.’
5.4 when concluding new terms and conditions of sale with retailers of their Product recommend to those retailers, by way of a standard clause in the terms and conditions (example below), that they and their employees, when engaged in face to face transactions with customers, should comply with the PEGI Retail Code (see Annex B) and, in particular, do not sell Product to those customers in contravention of the specified PEGI age rating.
Sample Standard Clause: ‘The Seller recommends to the Retailer that they and their employees, when engaged in face to face transactions with customers, comply with the PEGI Retail Code and, in particular, do not sell Product to those customers in contravention of the specified PEGI age rating.’
Article 6: LEGAL AND REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
Signatories shall ensure that the content, distribution by any means, promotion and advertising of the Products covered by this Code comply at all times with existing and future laws and regulations at EU and national level. It is therefore understood that the obligation to utilise the Code applies only as far as it does not lead to any infringement of existing or future national mandatory (governmental) rating and labelling systems applicable to interactive software made available by physical or electronic means.
Article 7: PEGI SYSTEM - AGE RATING
The main features of the PEGI System are described as follows. Their implementation shall be subject to guidelines to be enacted by the PEC and to specific agreements to be entered into by the Signatories and PEGI.
7.1 Prior to Product release, Signatories shall, for each product and format thereof complete an Assessment File.
7.2 The Assessment File shall generate an age rating Logo and the Descriptors indicating the reasons for classification of the Product in a specific age category.
7.3 The PEGI System age rating groups shall be divided as follows: 3, 7, 12, 16, and 18.
7.4 The Administrator shall review the Assessment File according to the following rules:
7.4.1 The Administrator shall review all Products in full before deciding whether to approve the age rating by granting a licence to use the Logo and Descriptors except in the case of Products subject to the PEGI Express system where age ratings utilised can be verified by the Administrator after the Product is made available to the public.
7.4.2 In the event that the recommendation on the appropriate age rating is different from the one determined by the submitting Signatory, an explanation for the variation shall be provided by the Administrator. If the Signatory does not agree with the recommendation, it may appeal to the PCB, which will make the final decision as to the appropriate age rating recommendation.
7.4.3 In due course, the Signatory will receive a license to reproduce the Logo and Descriptors corresponding to the final recommendation on the product packaging, or equivalent place immediately visible to consumers where distribution is made via electronic means.
Article 8: PEGI ONLINE SYSTEM
The main features of the PEGI Online System are described in this, and in the following, article.
8.1 The Administrator shall evaluate the ability of the Signatory to comply with the commitments of the PEGI Online system described in Article 9 below in light of answers and material provided by the Signatory as part of the PEGI System described in Article 7 above as far as Online Gameplay Environments (defined in Article 1.4 above) are concerned.
8.2 If the Administrator so decides, the Signatory will be issued a licence to reproduce the PEGI Online Logo and to post it on its Online Gameplay Environments in accordance with guidelines enacted by the PEC.
8.3 The Administrator shall review the compliance of an Online Gameplay Environment with the Code of Conduct where a consumer complains that the said Online Gameplay Environment does not comply with the Signatory’s obligations under Article 9 below.
Article 9: PEGI ONLINE - CONDITIONS FOR ONLINE GAMEPLAY ENVIRONMENTS
9.1 Rated Content; Products offering Online Gameplay Environments operated by Signatories will, where practicable, be appropriately rated under the PEGI System. This provision will not apply to game content which is posted on the Online Gameplay Environment operated by the Signatory but which is not under the Signatory’s control, such as user-generated content.
9.2 Removal of Undesirable Content; Signatories shall use their best endeavours to ensure that Online Gameplay Environments are kept free of content which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or might permanently impair the development of minors.
When Online Gameplay Environments also contain user generated content, Signatories shall use their best endeavours to immediately take down any such content which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or might permanently impair the development of minors. Observance of all the foregoing should, where possible, also include removal of undesirable links or ‘hyperlinks.’
9.3 Appropriate Reporting Mechanisms; Consistent with the foregoing paragraph, Signatories will ensure that appropriate reporting mechanisms are in place to allow players to notify Signatories of the existence of content such as described in the previous sub-section within any Online Gameplay Environment.
9.4 Chatrooms; Signatories should take reasonable precautions to ensure that Online Gameplay Environments which allow voice or video chat, protect children from access to age-inappropriate content introduced by other users.
9.5 Other Operators; Signatories shall use their best endeavours to ensure that operators of Online Gameplay Environments offered by Products published by the Signatory and which are authorised by, but not under the control of, the Signatory, abide by these rules and/or subsequently become Signatories themselves.
9.6 Safety Warnings; Signatories shall advise users of Online Gameplay Environments under their control of the desirability of taking occasional breaks from Online Gameplay.
9.7 Community Standards; Signatories shall ensure the incorporation in their terms of business with users of Online Gameplay Environments of certain provisions usually included under the heading of so called ‘community standards’. These provisions will contain prohibitions against those users introducing content or indulging in online behaviour which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or might permanently impair the development of minors.
9.9 Protection of Minors; In keeping with one of the main objectives of both the PEGI and PEGI Online Systems, Signatories shall adhere to stringent standards ensuring the protection of children from any unsuitable content and behaviour associated with any Online Gameplay Environment offered by any Product aimed at children. These standards shall include, as appropriate;
- the publication of warnings about the supply or display online of private email addresses
- promoting responsible purchasing practices within Online Gameplay Environments where minors are concerned.
9.10 Signatories who publish Products offering Online Gameplay Environments which allow voice or video chat should take reasonable safeguards to protect children from access to age-inappropriate content introduced by other users and should also take steps to ensure that the privacy of minors is reasonably protected at all times.
Article 10: LABELLING
10.1 The PEGI Online Logo and the PEGI Logo and Descriptors shall appear on or in connection with the product in a size that permits the message to be legible and clearly visible to the consumer at the point of sale, in accordance with the templates set out in the Advertising and Labelling Guidelines as are made available by PEGI from time to time.
10.2 The same principles shall apply to the making available to the public through other means apart from sale, such as by electronic means or by rental or lending.
10.3 Signatories shall ensure that the PEGI Online Logo and the PEGI Logo and Descriptors are used in accordance with national legal requirements and that, in particular, they are not used in countries where the Product is prohibited or subject to compulsory content classification.
10.4 Signatories should use their best efforts to encourage online service providers carrying those Signatories’ Products, or advertising for those Products, but not under the Signatories’ control to display the ratings for those products within those online services.
10.5 The PEGI Online Logo should provide a direct hyperlink to a dedicated website where appropriate information will be given regarding the risks arising from the fact that content created in the course of gameplay may be unknown to the original publisher. Alternatively and where appropriate, POSC Signatories shall display the URL associated with the said dedicated website in a prominent position visible to users of Online Gameplay Environments.
Article 11: ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION
11.1 Advertising materials shall follow the PEGI Labeling and Advertising Guidelines and in particular show the age rating granted to the Product concerned or, should the license be pending, show the final age rating expected, taking the higher age category as a reference in case of doubt.
11.2 The design of print, broadcast and on-line advertising of Products shall comply with laws and regulations applicable to the age category concerned.
11.3 More generally, the following principles shall apply:
- All advertisements shall accurately reflect, to the best extent possible both the nature and content of the Product publicized and the rating associated with that Product. Advertisements should not mislead consumers as to the Product’s true character.
- Advertisements shall not in any way exploit a PEGI System rating of a Product as such rating is intended as a recommendation only.
- All advertisements shall be created with a sense of responsibility towards the public.
- All advertisements shall aim to avoid content that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence to the average consumer targeted.
- Signatories shall not specifically target advertising for Products rated 16 or 18 to consumers for whom the product is not rated as appropriate.
- Signatories shall ensure that ancillary or separate products that are being sold or promoted in association with a core Product contain content that is appropriate for the audience for which the core Product is intended.
- Signatories shall not enter into promotion of Products rated 16 or 18 with another company’s brands, products, or events, if it is reasonable to believe that such company’s products, brands or events will reach consumers for whom the Product is not rated as appropriate.
- Signatories shall inform the public by means of a general statement of the existence of sponsorship(s) and/or the existence of ‘product placement(s) associated with any Product. In this regard use of a trade mark or brand solely to provide authenticity to the Product environment shall not be held to constitute either product placement or sponsorship provided that license holders do not receive payment in exchange for such use.
11.4 The PEGI System shall be open to magazine Signatories for the age rating of compact discs and/or DVDs attached to such magazines (cover discs) when they contain excerpts from interactive software products and/or audiovisual material related to such products provided that those products are published by other Signatories.
Article 12: PEGI COUNCIL, LEGAL COMMITTEE AND EXPERTS GROUP
The PEGI Council (“PC”) and PEGI Experts Group (“PEG”) shall play key roles in ensuring that the Code evolves in line with all relevant social, political, legal and technological developments.
The PC comprises:
- national representatives from the counties that use the PEGI System,
- representatives from PEGI and the Administrator,
- other members as deemed appropriate by agreement between the PMB and the PC.
The PEG comprises:
- parents and consumer organisation representatives,
- child psychology experts,
- media experts,
- age rating experts,
- lawyers expert in European minor protection laws,
- videogame industry experts,
- other experts in their field as considered appropriate and necessary.
Article 13: COMPLAINTS BOARD
An independent Complaints Board (“PCB”) is established with regard to this Code of Conduct with the following tasks in mind:
- handling possible complaints about the consistency of advertising, marketing and promotional activities of any Signatory with the age rating finally attributed or likely to be attributed under the PEGI System;
- handling possible rating conflicts between Signatories and the PEGI System,
- processing age rating complaints by consumers.
The PCB will draw on similar expertise to the PC and PEG.
Article 14 ENFORCEMENT COMMITTEE
Compliance with this Code, the provision of advice to all companies deciding to subscribe to the Code as well as to its Administrator and the possible imposition of sanctions on Signatories infringing the Code, shall be entrusted to the PEGI Enforcement Committee (“PEC”) which shall be made up an equal number of carefully selected representatives of the industry and PC members, as nominated by the PMB.
Article 15: INFRINGEMENT, CORRECTIVE ACTION, SANCTIONS AND ARBITRATION
15.1 In addition to infringements identified by third parties or the Administrator, the PEC and the PCB shall jointly identify and document any possible wrongful application and/or breaches of the Code. Reasonable, non-arbitrary discretion will be used in examining all relevant facts to enable a determination of appropriate sanctions.
15.2 The PEC and PCB may suggest corrective action commensurate to the violation, to be implemented immediately. This corrective action may include:
- re-labelling of packaging,
- revocation and removal of the Logos and Descriptors,
- recall of inaccurately labelled product.
- modification of advertisements both on and offline.
15.3 Failure to abide by the terms of this Code, including the failure to institute the corrective action referred to at 15.2. above will expose offenders to the imposition of sanctions by the PEC as set out in Annex A including, but not limited to, the following:
- temporary suspension of product from the PEGI and/or PEGI Online Systems,
- mandatory modification of any associated advertisements both on and off-line,
- disqualification of product from the PEGI and/or PEGI Online Systems for a set period,
- fines of up to € 500,000 per violation depending on the gravity thereof and the failure to take appropriate remedial action.
Violations warranting these sanctions include
- presenting misleading or incomplete material to support the original application for a PEGI rating license,
- failure to submit changes, updates, or modifications that affect the ability of the Signatory to comply with its obligations under the Codes in a timely fashion,
- self-application or flawed display of the Logos and Descriptors by a Signatory,
- unlicensed or inappropriate display of the PEGI Online Logo.
- inappropriately targeted marketing,
- more generally, all steps or omissions that fail to show a sense of responsibility towards the general public. In this regard the deliberate failure by a Signatory to disclose relevant content which is discovered after Logos and Descriptors have been assigned shall be material grounds for consideration of high level sanctions by the PEC.
- those steps and omissions set out in Annex A.
15.4 The PEC shall be able to take into account on the application of a Signatory, or otherwise, any or all extenuating circumstances justifying moderation of any sanction to be applied.
15.5 Any PEC decision imposing a sanction on a Signatory can be referred by that Signatory, within thirty days of the date of the PEC decision, to final and binding arbitration by CEPANI, the Belgian Centre for Arbitration. Arbitration shall be the sole method available to challenge any decision of the PEC. Imposition of any sanction shall await the decision of CEPANI.
BREACHES OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT AND RELATED SANCTIONS
LEVEL I. VERY SERIOUS
Failure to Disclose Significant Content
This can be defined as a deliberate failure to disclose, or gross negligence* leading to a failure to disclose significant aspects of a product which would have led to the assignment of a higher age rating to that product than the rating actually assigned to and displayed on the product under the PEGI rating process and the targeting of advertising for a product at consumers, especially children, for whom the product is not rated as appropriate.
The fact that this behaviour causes significant damage both to the integrity of the PEGI System and the public’s use of or trust in the system is reflected in the sanctions set out below.
First Breach: 100,000 to 250,000 Euro Fine
Second Breach: 250,000 to 500,000 Euro Fine
Third Breach: 500,000 Euro Fine
Additionally, a period of disqualification from the PEGI System may also be imposed the duration of which will depend on the severity of the breach.
In all the above cases the PEC may also elect to impose sanctions including the removal of the product from the market in order to resticker all existing product in line with the appropriate age rating.
* In case of doubt ‘gross negligence’ will not be held to have taken place;
- where a genuine mistake has been made by the person assessing the content of a product and/or
- where there was a subsequent genuine attempt made by that person to correct the assessment as soon as possible after becoming aware of the mistake
LEVEL II. SERIOUS
These include the following:
- Negligence leading to a failure to disclose significant aspects of a product which would have lead to the assignment of a higher age rating to that product than the rating actually displayed on the product when sold to the public. ‘Negligence’ will be held to exist where the content has been assessed but, through error or omission, content significant to the rating assigned has not been taken into account.
- Failure to comply with a sanction imposed by the PEC
- Failure to respond to an inquiry by the Administrator or the PEC
- Failure to submit changes, updates, or modifications that materially concern the age rating assigned to a product and are made after the product has received that rating.
- Using PEGI logo or content descriptors which have not been assigned by the Administrator by way of licence.
- Failure to display a PEGI age rating or display of an incorrect PEGI rating
- Failure to display a PEGI content descriptor or the display of incorrect content descriptor
- Presenting deliberately misleading or incomplete material to support an original application for a PEGI Online licens
- Unlicensed display of the PEGI Online Logo
- Using advertising which is inconsistent with a PEGI rating (not ‘very’ serious) or which exploits a PEGI rating by, for example, drawing attention to an 18 rating as a device to encourage sales of the product concerned.
- Using advertising which is offensive or which otherwise does not reflect a sense of responsibility towards the public or to the PEGI System.
First Breach: 5,000 to 20,000 Euro Fine
Second Breach: 20,000 to 50,000 Euro Fine
Third Breach: 75,000 Euro Fine
In all the above cases the PEC may also elect to impose sanctions either of removal of the product from the market or restickering or relabelling of all existing product in line with the appropriate age rating.
LEVEL III ADMINISTRATIVE/OPERATIONAL
- Failure to display correct PEGI rating on Demo or Trailer
- Wilful failure to submit complete and accurate submission materials, when discovered before release of the product.
- Negligent supply of incomplete, inaccurate or inconsistent content in submission materials leading to rating errors which are discovered before release of the product.
First Breach: up to 5,000 Euro Fine
Second Breach: 5,000 to 7,500 Euro Fine
Third Breach: 10,000 Euro Fine and/or a period of disqualification from the PEGI Rating System depending on the severity of the breach
ALL LEVELS - RETRAINING OF CODERS
In all levels and cases of breaches of the Code of Conduct the imposition of a sanction requiring the retraining by the Administrator of all PEGI Coders employed by that company shall be at the discretion of the PEC.
ALL LEVELS – SYSTEMATIC SCREENING OF FUTURE PRODUCT
In all levels and cases of breaches of the Code of Conduct the PEC may require systematic screening of product to be released in the future for a period to be determined and also the payment of any additional costs caused by this measure.
ALL LEVELS - BREACHES AND TIME LIMITS
In the case of sanctions to be applied the following Time Limits shall be held relevant in determining whether a company under sanction shall be considered by the PEC to be of past good conduct;
All breaches shall stay on a company’s PEGI record for a period of three years from the date that the related sanctions were imposed
All breaches shall stay on a company’s PEGI record for a period of two years from the date that the related sanctions were imposed
All breaches shall stay on a company’s PEGI record for a period of one year from the date that the related sanctions were imposed
After the expiration of the appropriate time limits as set out above the PEGI record of the offending company shall be considered free of any breach of Code of Conduct. However the PEC when considering sanctions for a breach at any one Level shall be entitled to take into account other breaches at all other Levels and can impose any discretionary penalties available under the Code for breaches at the Level under consideration.
ALL LEVELS - PUBLICATION OF DECISIONS
The PEC reserves the right to publicise details of all and any sanctions imposed for breaches of the Code of Conduct.
PEGI RETAIL CODE
The Code applies to retailers in the European Economic Area territories and in Switzerland who have signed this Code and covers computer and video products that have been rated under the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating system. Retailers adopting this Code must use best efforts to comply with the policies outlined below when engaged in face to face transactions with customers.
Each signatory of this Code agrees to:
- Train all appropriate managers, clerks and/or other employees so that they are familiar with the PEGI age ratings system and the policies adopted in this Code;
- Display in a conspicuous location where product is displayed signage describing the PEGI age rating system;
- Treat the PEGI age recommendations as mandatory and use reasonable endeavours to ensure that computer and video games are not supplied to persons below the specified age;
- Assess existing internal policies, practices and procedures on ratings education and policy enforcement and make improvements where necessary to maintain compliance with the Code;
- Clearly and conspicuously display rating symbols and, where feasible, content descriptors, in all advertising, marketing and promotion of games;
- Where practical, endeavour to keep a refusals record when sales of PEGI labelled products are refused to customers of inappropriate age;
- Respond to customer complaints about non-compliance with the Code and keep a record of such complaints;
- Advise customers to submit a complaint at the PEGI website (www.pegi.info) when a complaint cannot be resolved at the store level;
- Regularly share information on best practices to further develop and improve compliance with this Code;
- Accept that, if a Signatory has failed to fulfil the letter and spirit of the Code, PEGI may provide notice to the Signatory summarizing the deficiency and provide a period of 30 days to improve, after which time PEGI may determine that the Signatory has not made sufficient improvement and exclude him from the Code;
- Be entitled to terminate its participation in the Code at its sole discretion by providing written notice of such termination to PEGI.