Utah House Bill 353

Utah House Bill 353 would open video game retailers to litigation if they were found to have sold an adult-rated game to a minor while “advertising” that they adhere to the private ESRB rating system.

Media Coalition stipulated in the memo that Utah House Bill 353 classifies “advertising” as “any representation or statement by a supplier in connection with soliciting business” and thus penalizes retailers for having signage about the ratings system if they should be found to sell an adult game to a minor, even the purchase was made through use of a fake ID on the part of the child. Violation of the statute would open retailers to litigation not only from a district attorney, but from any customer with a willing trial lawyer.

If passed, HB353 would induce a “chilling effect” among video game retailers, who would be forced to choose between the risk of being sued for mistakes in enforcing ratings standards or gaining a bad reputation among customers by not following rating guidelines (or selling video games) at all. The bill would serve only to reward opportunistic trial lawyers while punishing retailers who make efforts to help parents control what their children consume.

After deliberations in the House, the bill was amended to exempt retailers which submit their clerks to training on how to adhere to ratings systems. This step would only increase the burden on Utah’s retailers, especially on smaller businesses that don’t have the financial resources to pay for such training.

Media Coalition also sent a letter to Governor Jon Huntsman encouraging him to veto the bill , even in its amended form. Huntsman eventually vetoed the bill.

Actions:

February 19, 2009: Media Coalition files first opposition memo.

March 3, 2009: Introduced, deliberations begin.

March 4, 2009: Media Coalition files opposition memo in Senate.

March 12, 2009: Amended with exemption for retailers with trained clerks.

March 18, 2009: Veto letter to Huntsman filed.

March 25, 2009: Gov. Huntsman vetoes bill.