Bill would open Utah stores to suits over selling kids graphic video games

Published March 3, 2009 4:03 pm

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Stores that pledge not to sell violent or sexually explicit video games or movies to youths but then do anyway could end up being sued by parents under a bill that won overwhelming House approval Tuesday.

"This is not an attempt to regulate or to enforce ratings," said Rep. Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork. "This is simply a bill that is intended to encourage people who take a pledge and actively advertise that they will not sell to minors this age-inappropriate material [to follow through]."

HB347 allows a parent to file a civil lawsuit claiming deceptive advertising against a retailer that has pledged not to sell graphic games or movies to a minor, but does anyway.

Morley's bill provides numerous exemptions to protect retailers, concessions aimed at erasing opposition from the Utah Retail Merchants Association, which feared the bill could make store owners liable, even if they take pains to avoid sales to minors.

For example, stores with employee-training programs could not be sued, and each retailer would be exempt in the first two instances. Retailers would have until Jan. 1, 2010, to launch training programs.

Retailers also could stop advertising that they won't sell graphic video games to children and be immune from any deceptive-ad claim.

"It's the right thing to do," Morley said. "We have a responsibility to our children, to our families to make sure this media" don't fall into children's hands.

The measure passed the House 70-2 and now moves to the Senate.