Underage Sales

DVD's, Video Games, Videos for sale and hire

This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.

DVD's, Video Games, Videos for sale and hire

DVD Image

It is an offence to supply, or offer to supply, media containing video recordings (be they DVD, Blu-Ray or any other format), video games, and computer games to any person who has not attained the age specified on the recording.


The penalty for breaking this law can be a fine of up to £20,000, up to 2 years imprisonment or both


You did not know or had reasonable grounds to believe that

  • The title was an age restricted title, or
  • That the person to whom the title had been supplied had not attained the specified age

If you can show that you had taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.

This means setting up control systems and making sure they work.

  • Staff training and instructions (written records)
  • Display of prominent notices at the sales counter that 'it is illegal to supply age restricted videos/DVD or games titles to any person under the specified age'
  • Giving guidance on acceptable 'proof of age' cards
  • Regular reminders
  • Support for staff making refusals
  • Keeping a 'refused sales' log
  • Making the responsibilities of senior staff clear

The Video Recordings Act of 1984 (as amended) and 2010


You will need to check the labelling on

  • the mediae/disc/cartridge etc. - must have the appropriate symbol on one face of the disc (double sided discs must have the letters 'UK' before the classification letter); or on top of the spool; and
  • the case - must have the appropriate symbol on its front and spine (unless one of the dimensions of the spine is less then 2cm, in which case on the front only), and a label that includes the symbol and an explanatory statement on the reverse side.

If you transfer media into library cases, you will need to have those cases labelled in accordance with the regulations. You do not have to label the front of a transparent library case if the label on the media inside is clearly visible through it.

The maximum fine for selling or hiring incorrectly labelled videos or DVDs is £5,000 per item.

Icon Classification Only to be sold to
Universal classification sign Universal Suitable for all
Universal classification sign UC Universal - Particularly suitable for children Suitable for all
Parental Guidance sign Parental Guidance - General viewing but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children 12 years and over
Suitable for 12 years and over Suitable only for persons 12 years and over 12 years and over
Suitable for persons 15 years and over Suitable only for persons 15 years and over 15 years and over
Suitable only for persons 18 years and over Suitable only for persons 18 years and over 18 years and over
Restricted 18: Suitable only for persons 18 years and over Restricted 18: Suitable only for persons 18 years and over To be supplied only to licensed sex shops to persons 18 years and over

Keeping within the law

  • check current stock and see that all videos and DVDs have been classified
  • check new stock for labelling
  • make sure that media are in correctly marked cases both with the appropriate symbol and with the symbol and explanatory note
  • always observe any age restrictions on the recording and make sure your staff do so too
  • check the quality of the printing on the label and the media itself
  • always buy from a known and reputable supplier
  • check that any holograms on the goods are working and not a copy

The law in detail

All videos, except certain exempted ones (those which are solely designed to inform, educate or instruct, concern only sport, religion or mimic or comprise only a video game) must have been submitted to the British Board of Film Classification. This Board will either give the video or DVD a certificate or refuse classification. Some producers of videos or DVDs display an E to show that they are exempt, but this is not a legal requirement. Only certain video games have to be submitted to the BBFC, being those that depict certain types of imagery (e.g. gross acts of violence towards humans or animals, horrific behaviour or incidents, human sexual activity, criminal behaviour).

It is an offence to supply, or have in your possession for supply, any media (subject to the above) that has not been classified. The maximum fine for these offences is £20,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both, per tape or disc.

Media is classified with regard to all of the material on it. So, for example, trailers for other films would be considered in its overall classification.

The maximum fine for selling or hiring age-restricted media to someone under the age specified by the BBFC is £5,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both. Sometimes magazines or newspapers will come with DVD's or games; if that video recording is BBFC rated then the magazine or newspaper cannot be sold to anybody under the BBFC rating of that video recording.

Some computer games have a Pan European Games Information logo (PEGI) which is currently a voluntary rating. It is advised this rating is always observed and it is best practice to comply with this in the same way the BBFC rated games are controlled. It should be noted that the Digital Economy Act 2010 allows for a new system for the age rating of video games. This may see the BBFC system replaced, possibly with the PEGI system alone. However, until such time as the new system is set up, the BBFC ratings are the only legally enforceable ones on video games.

Trade Marks Act 1994

Although this legislation is applicable to a wide range of consumer goods, it has a significant bearing on videos and DVD's. Many companies have registered their trade mark and incorporate it on the label, the video cassette and DVD and on the content so that it can be seen on viewing. If an unauthorised copy is made, found in possession for sale or hire or so sold or hired and it has a copy of the registered trade mark, an offence is committed which can result in a prosecution.

The fine at the magistrate's court is up to £5,000 and is unlimited with a maximum ten year prison sentence at a crown court. In addition all offending stock is liable for forfeiture and destruction.



Help us stamp out underage sales of age restricted products

Trading Standards
Montgomery House
Monarch Way
Winchester SO22 5PW

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Further assistance

  • We provide advice to businesses on request
  • We undertake routine inspections to prevent under age access
  • We actively seek information from parents, schools, police, etc about shops are selling to youngsters

Ref B/uas/120/004 December 2010