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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Qatar ministry warns merchants to heed age guidelines on games, movies

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Photo for illustrative purposes only
Photo for illustrative purposes only

Qatar cinemas and stores should take care when selling movie tickets, DVDs and electronic games to children, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) has said in a new directive issued this week.

To ensure guidelines are followed, the MEC has released new posters that outline the age-appropriateness of movies and video games for kids and teens. The directive states (as translated from Arabic into English):

”This binding protocol comes from the MEC’s keenness to maintain the entrenched traditions, religious, ethical and public moral values of the society, by raising the audience’s awareness regarding the content of movies and video games and how appropriate it is to the age groups (of their children).”

The new rules are in line with Law (8) for the year 2008 on consumer protection, regarding respecting values, customs and traditions, in addition to the right to have correct information about a product or a service, purchased or used by the consumer.

Consumers can report violations or complaints on this free hotline: 16001, email info@mec.gov.qa or tweet to @MEC_QATAR.

It’s not clear what the penalties are for shops and cinemas that fail to enforce the new directive. The MEC said in an e-mail that it would give a warning to violators and “then take legal procedures,” without elaborating further.

It added that a grace period would be given until November for cinemas and shops to implement the rules.

Guidelines

The guidelines are similar to the international film rating system, and divides movies into the following categories:

  • G (general admission suitable for all ages);
  • PG (with parental guidance);
  • PG13 (children under 13 admitted only with parental guidance);
  • PG15 (children under 15 enter only with parental guidance);
  • 15+(no person under 15 is admitted); and
  • 18+ (no person under 18 is admitted).

Meanwhile, video and computer games have been divided into these categories:

  • E (everyone);
  • Ec (early childhood);
  • E10+ (10 years and older);
  • T (teens);
  • M (mature 17+);
  • Ao (adults only 18+); and
  • RP (rating pending).

Posters including the details of each age category are expected to be put up in all cinemas and shops that sell or rent DVDs and electronic games, as per the MEC’s directive.

Enforcement

Though the directive is new, a supervisor at Villaggio Mall’s cinema told Doha News that employees have always checked ID for movie entry based on its rating and the movie-goer’s age.

West End Park Cinema
West End Park Cinema

Previously, the Qatar government only issued IDs to teens once they reached the age of 16 years old.

However, all children will soon have ID cards after a new system began rolling out in June that puts more emphasis on this form of identification instead of passports.

Meanwhile, a senior employee at Virgin Megastores in Villaggio confirmed that DVDs and video games are labeled according to age categories and have to be approved by the MEC before being put on the shelves for purchase.

Electronic games also have label warnings on the back, on whether the game contains ”bad language” or ”violence.”

But he argued that it was difficult for vendors to enforce the rule themselves when parents don’t cooperate.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

For example, sometimes an employee will tell a child that he can’t buy a game, but then his father would come and buy it for him despite the warning labels.

In the directive, MEC called on people, specifically parents, to follow the guidelines depending on their children’s age, and to refrain from purchasing tickets for movies, DVDs or video games that are inappropriate for a child’s age group.

In another attempt to protect children’s wellbeing, MEC advised cinemas in May not to sell soda or power drinks to children.

In a statement previously sent to Doha News, the MEC said it “verbally” instructed cinemas not to sell such beverages to kids to protect their health and safety, after receiving several complaints from consumers regarding the issue.

At the Pearl-Qatar, Novo Cinemas has previously posted a warning at the food counter, stating “cola drinks are not allowed for children.”

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