EA forced to give refunds down under – but what about South Africa?

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Origin

It’s tricky to get refunds on games you’ve bought – whether at retail or through digital distribution. It’s especially tricky when the store you’ve bought it from doesn’t provide a method for refund. EA’s Origin doesn’t. At least everywhere other than Australia. They’ve been forced to change their policies by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“Businesses such as EA selling digitally downloadable goods cannot avoid their responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law just because they are located outside of Australia,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

“It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that customers are not entitled to refunds under any circumstances. Where a product has a major failure, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their choice. Representations that this right has or can be excluded, restricted or modified are false or misleading,” he added.

EA issued its own statement, which says:

“We’re pleased to have worked cooperatively with the ACCC to resolve the ACCC’s concerns and ensure our players in Australia have the best possible experience when purchasing and playing EA games.

“In addition to rights available to our players under the Australian Consumer Law, we are also proud to offer our global, industry-leading Great Game Guarantee that allows for digital returns within certain timeframes if anyone is not satisfied with a digitally-downloaded game from EA.”

Could this happen for those of us here in South Africa? We have a Consumer Protection act that’s fairly strict, and should make provisions for refunds on games that don’t work.

Here’s EA’s terms of sale regarding South Africans.

“Residents in South Africa have the right to withdraw from their purchase within 14 days from the date of conclusion of the purchase process.  Please note that you will lose your right of withdrawal once we have sent you a purchase confirmation email, either with a digital download code enabling you access to the EA Content, or confirming your Account has been directly entitled.”

Essentially, all that means is that you’re allowed to cancel you pre-orders. Once you’ve got a download code, or have initiated the download process you lose your right to withdraw the sale. That very much contravenes our Consumer Protection Act, which says that:

  • Consumers have the right to return unsafe or defective goods and request a full refund for such goods, provided this is done within a reasonable period.
  • Consumers have the right to return goods that were not pre-examined prior to delivery.
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According to Blackslash, “goods” includes: “Any literature, music, photographs, films, games, information, data, software, codes or other intangible goods or a licence to use the product (a software licence).”

However, there’s a bit of a caveat here, and it could be how EA’s getting around adhering to the CPA. According to the act, it covers:

  • Every transaction occurring within the Republic of South Africa;
  • Promotion or supply of any goods and services occurring within the Republic; and
  • Goods or services that are supplied or performed, in the Republic, in terms of transactions mentioned in the Act

Now while your Origin purchases do occur with your bum on a chair within South Africa, it could be reasonably argued that the digital transaction happens on a server overseas. When you buy from Origin, the seller, according to the invoice that gets mailed is:

EA Swiss Sàrl, 8 place du Molard, 1204 Geneva, Switzerland. Registered in the Geneva Companies Registry with Company Registered Number: CH-660-2328005-8.

I don’t know, or understand South African consumer law well enough, but to my mind I think we should be able to wrangle refunds much in the same way that the Australians have.

Last Updated: April 28, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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