Can You Actually Get A Refund For Sim City In Australia? [Update]

Today, EA announced via its Twitter feed that it would not be providing refunds on digitally bought copies of SimCity via the Origin store. But what are your rights in this situation? In the case of SimCity, where a product is clearly not working as advertised, are you able to demand a refund? Turns out it's a bit of a grey area.

EA's tweet stated the following...

EA's policy is that boxed products purchased through the Origin store have a 14-day window for a refund. You can send back any physical product you bought on the store within 14 days of its delivery, no questions asked.

All physical products purchased through our Origin Store come with a 14-day unconditional guarantee. If you don't like it, you can return it within 14 days of its delivery for a prompt refund -- no questions asked!
Refund will be by method of original payment; shipping and handling not included. The customer is responsible for shipping costs to return products.

However, EA's terms and conditions state that no refunds will be offered if the product is bought digitally.

The exception is Europe, where consumer law states that a 14-day cooling-off period is mandatory. EA's terms and conditions allow for this.

If you reside in the European Union and you purchase a product or service on one of our Websites, you have the right to withdraw from your purchase within fourteen calendar days, commencing on the day after the date of purchase.

But what are your rights in Australia? At the moment, for a great number of consumers, SimCity is a product that is faulty. Are you able to demand a refund whether you bought it digitally or not? It really depends on your definition of "faulty". Speaking to the ACCC, the national consumer regulator, Australian legislation makes no mention of any cooling off periods in consumer law, but it does state that if a product has a "major problem", you are well within your rights to ask for a refund. If it's a "minor problem", EA is within its rights to try to provide you with a solution that will fix the problem. Simply put, if SimCity's issues are defined as minor, you have to wait for the server fixes, and you don't necessarily get to demand a refund.

And the situation becomes increasingly blurry in the definitions, because it's difficult to ascertain whether we define Sim City as a product or a service. The game itself is a product, but the problem here is with the service.

According to the ACCC a product has a major problem if

-- it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it. -- it is unsafe. -- it is significantly different from the sample or description. -- it doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed.

A service has a major problem if

-- it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it. -- it is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time. -- it does not meet the specific purpose you asked for and cannot easily be fixed within a reasonable time. -- it creates an unsafe situation.

So does Sim City have a "major problem"? I would argue yes. If you can't play the game, then, yes, it has a major problem. Will it be fixed within a reasonable time? That remains to be seen, and EA has not yet provided a specific time frame as to when the problem will be fixed. It has also stated that the service will be hampered over the weekend, except it's being described as "service fluctuations".

Earlier in the week, it was also stated that the situation would be resolved before the international launches (which included Australia).

Given the circumstances, given the lack of a timeframe and the fact that the service is severely hampered, we believe that consumers are well within their rights to demand a refund regardless of whether the product was bought as a physical product or digitally. In Australia, the terms and conditions are largely irrelevant, since terms and conditions cannot override consumer law.

We've contacted EA Australia asking for its position on the matter and whether it will be providing refunds to those who ask. We'll update when we hear back.

UPDATE: EA Australia got back to us with the following statements with regards to refunds for Sim City in Australia.

Origin Australia is covered under the Origin Global Terms of Sale. However, for our customers in Australia, Origin will always comply with Australian consumer laws that apply to the purchases consumers make in Australia. These consumer rights are in addition to those in the EA Terms of Sale in our Origin store.


    You should have talked to a brick wall Mark, it would have been more helpful.

    By the look of what the ACCC outlines above, it's left in the hands of EA to give you a refund and the ACCC won't do shit to help you. Basically, EA will deem these issues as minor so they can keep your money and the ACCC will back them up in that regard.

      This man speaks the truth. EA will laugh at you, keep your money and nothing will be done.

        EA will laugh at you, keep your money and nothing will be done.

        Nothing will be done? They're fixing the servers at quite a speed now. Things are a lot more playable than they were just 36 hours ago.

          Really? I've tried this morning at 9am and things were actually worse than yesterday (ie I couldn't even get to log in any server from the launcher, while yesterday I could sometime start the game, get stuck after the loading screens, or sometime start the tutorial to get booted out of it before completion - yay...).

          I was able to start playing Diablo III faster :s

            I think it's just something of a lottery at this point. Some people haven't really had any trouble at all since release, whilst others haven't yet been able to play through even the tutorial.

            One thing I can recommend you try (if you haven't already) is the log on to one of the Europe servers. For some reason they seem to be less laggy and far less buggy than the Oceanic and US servers. I'm currently on Europe West 2 and things are ok.

          Nothing will be done? They're fixing the servers at quite a speed now. Things are a lot more playable than they were just 36 hours ago.
          I wonder how much of that is actually just people giving up and doing something else...

        Jesus... even The War Z gave refunds.

      You should be well within your rights to receive a refund considering the game relies on EA's servers to be running, and they aren't. You are buying a product that -can not be used-, under the impression that you can go home and play it straight away.

      Not quite, if you've paid by credit card (how else do you buy online) you can lodge a complain with the ACCC, contact your bank and perform a charge back which actually costs EA money.

      Forget the ACC - it's fair Trading in your state that is responsible for handling the complaint.

      But you have to ask EA to fix the issue first - if they don't make an effort to fix, then you can ask for a refund. If they're not forthcoming with the refund then you lodge a complaint. They will investigate and work on your behalf - but it can take up to 30 days. If they believe a law has been broken they can then work on behalf of the commonwealth to push proceedings through the court.

      99 times out of 100 threatening to send something to fair trading is enough to get most companies to meet their legal obligation under the Trade Practices act. For the other 1 percent Fair Trading is there to help.

    there are also things like fit for purpose under trade practices act. If it doesnt do what they say you can get a refund. Little rough on the details since i havent opened up trade practices since i graduated however there are a lot of ways to get a refund in Australia.

      I believe Mark was referring to those things, just not by name. Also, it's called the Australian Consumer Law now.

        Ah it is to. =P did mine 2009. =P

    Great article, Mark. I spent a bit of time digging around consumer rights myself this morning and this is spot on.

    I would also note you have rights against the retailer not just EA. So if you bought it from EB, you can return it to EB if it is faulty.

    If anyone wants some more detail, this is a useful document:

      Thanks man -- you never know with these things and, unlike you, I'm not a lawyer!

        Or a cat!

          Or a masked cat!

            I thought they was glasses & a 'stache?

      Many thinks for the link

    I know several people that bought this at EB games, and they all got refunds, no questions asked...
    had such high hopes for this game... this is worse than that time i found out that santa doesnt deliver to my neighbourhood

    I purchased the game through Amazon and have yet to actually be able to play it. Have asked Amazon for a refund but we shall see what actually happens. That will teach me I guess.

      How did you manage to order software from Amazon in the first place?

        Ah that is the easy part. Just set up a US account and have somewhere such as Delaware as your address to avoid sales tax. Then just attach your credit or debit card. A lot of Aus credit or debit cards will work fine such as my Commonwealth Debit Card.

          It's possible that by using this method, you give up your right to protection under Australian law. You bought the software posing as a US citizen.

            Got a refund without any issues at all. Just asked nicely what I had to do to get a refund under the current circumstances and they said no worries. Done and done.

    This is why you're awesome Mark. And you're right too, you can use this to get refunds on Steam so I'd be surprised if that's not the case with Origin. Products sold have to fit the purpose for which they were sold, otherwise refund. If it's not fit for use, then you're eligible for a refund.

    I got my game through Origin directly and they have issued me with a refund, well, they said it would take 5 days.

    While I'm not happy with the situation, I had no problem what so ever getting them to issue me with a refund.

    Gosh somehow I knew a perfect new gen Sim City would be too good to be true... *sad*

    There really needs to be someone who challenges the way video game developers release games. It seems there's constantly games coming out which don't work. Often taking ages to fix or not at all.

    Or the biggest is games which come out that are quite different from how they are advertised and sold. Apparently video games get a pass from often selling a product on false attributes and with high levels of dishonesty.

      We should start voting with our wallets. All this blind pre-ordering we do is letting companies like this think it is fine to release broken product.

      If we stop, then they'll *have* to pick up their game.

        How do you even stop that though? I haven't pre ordered a game since I was 10 because I see no point. There is always plenty of stock left even though the shop will try to convince you otherwise.

          How do you stop pre-ordering? By doing what you did.
          You are obviously not the problem here. People need to be more like you.

          And I don't mean nver buy the game BTW, I mean wait and see, then decide.

        This is what I was talking about before. We can complain all we like but the companies aren't going to listen if we keep giving them our money. Actions louder than words and so forth.

          There's a similar thing in American comic books, people always whinge that they do too many crossovers so people end up buying more comics than they would have.
          Marvel & DC will keep doing crossovers because people buy them, they don't just buy them, they actually buy more of them.

          Vote with your wallet!

        Yeah I often pre-order and I going to do it less and less. Only for known quantities. I'll pre-order Battlefield 4 for instance.

        I had Tomb Raider pre-ordered and it's great! No complaints with my Crysis 3 pre-order either.

        However I pre-ordered Medal of Honor: Warfighter which was not great.

        Luckily I got Aliens Colonial Marines refunded on steam a day before release after reading the massive amount of complaints about that.

        What I mainly hate is that developers are dishonest with games. There's puffery and selling it, but all too often they tell people what they want, not what it is. Like with ACM. Even BF3 which is great was sold to PC people as being different than how it was. It was PC lead platform until release, when everyone looked around and went.. no it wasn't. DICE comes out and says, yeah it wasn't.

        The catch is that voting with our wallets doesn't send a specific enough message. They're just as likely to think 'well, I guess we were right to stop making them, kids just think SimCity is gay nowadays, make more FPS games'.

          Exactly. I don't know why so many people say "vote with your wallet" It doesn't tell anybody anything except that 'a person did not want this.' This does no good at all for the people who really did want it and the protest doesn't even get noticed since a 'non-buyer in protest' falls into the same group as 'everybody else on the planet that didn't give a damn.'

      I personally see nothing wrong w/ preorders....

      with a caveat that I actually look into the game I'm buying and it passes through my "no buy list". I have a strict rule of no Always Online DRM and no Capcom =P

        Yeah I will still pre-order some stuff. However I really think unless it's something I know I must have. I might wait. Aliens Colonial Marines should be a good lesson on waiting for feedback for a game.

        Even still with doing research on the game, you often can't tell. The sim city problems, you couldn't predict that.

    Isn't it worth waiting a week before asking for refunds? Surely we aren't all so ADHD and childish. Most people could see a troubled launch from a mile off, and to demand refunds for what will likely be a fun game (the beta was fun and I've had a little bit of play time with the full game which was also) over the long term is just shortsighted.

    Basically a week of service interruption doesn't degrade what will likely be a 12 month game play experience. For me anyway.

    And no, i'm not affiliated with EA or Maxis. lol... a little longer sighted than most people asking for refunds. I still don't like always on DRM though.

      There is a time limit on how long you can wait before returning things. I think its perfectly reasonable to take your money back until they have fixed it on their end.

      Then you can buy it again if you choose.

      You would have to be mad to risk permanently losing your 80 bucks when you dont have to.

    it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if theyd known about it

    Surely this is enough to get your refund. I wouldn't have bought it if I knew the hell I would go through in attempting to play it.

    Isn't it a bit too early to be asking for a refund? It's only been out for a day in Aus, 3(?) in the US. If it had been not working for a week, two weeks, sure, looking for a refund sounds like a reasonable thing to do. The way everyone's talking about though is like it's always going to be broken and it will never ever work and you'll never get what you paid for. Its only been out for a few days! You're not even paying a subscription, so it's not like you're completely missing out on stuff you paid for.
    That's how I feel about all of this.

      Maybe if they could give some kind of date, people would relax?

      The thing is, you pay a premium to play all games in the first couple of weeks. This game will drop in price over the next couple of weeks and those who pick it up in a month when it's "fixed" will pay less and be able to play at the same time that the people paying for the beta testing get to play it.

        Hmm, I hadn't though of that. How long does it take for prices to go down though? Seems to take forever at EB and JB (maybe by about $10 in the first 2 months?) and I doubt they'll be lowering the price on Origin anytime soon.

          Key sites like Greenmangaming etc often will put up a voucher within the first month that gives quite a discount.

          I bought X-com for 26 dollars within the first 30 days of it being out.

      I think in the US they definitely should be concerned early on as most things indicate that they need to ask for a refund within 14 days.

    Meanwhile copies on Piratebay and the like are happily being played.

    Nice DRM bro.

      I wish, if there was a pirated version out there then maybe I could download it to play the game I paid for but cant access due to server issues.

      I don't think a pirated version will be out for a while. I think portions of the code/game are on EA servers and would thus have to be recreated for a pirated version to work.

    Wah wah cry cry all you want. It wont make any difference. Its going to be ongoing with every game release which includes an online component. The fact is no company is going to invest in enough servers to handle the launch load when they know in another two weeks the server load will be half of that and people will be happily playing along

      I actually agree. I purchased the game and I've only been able to play some of the 'getting started' area. People don't realise server costs and trying to manage the initial rush, which will eventual even out, its tough. I haven't thought once about getting a refund, because as you said this is going to happen with anything that requires online. It's akin to an MMO launch and I use MMO's as an example because obviously they require a permanent online component - it's just how the world works. If a company was to go out and invest in a million servers just for startup, they would struggle to turn a profit come two weeks when the player load automatically sorts itself out.

      I don't begrudge anyone that wants a refund, that's their right as they are paying for a service that hasn't technically been delivered. But if we all stop to think about the bigger picture, most of us realise that if we constantly complain about every little hiccup then this industry will continue to stay stagnate and continue to battle with itself trying to please everyone. Should we pander to big corporations so things don't change, no that's not what I'm saying - we as the consumer have all the power, but sometimes there's a minority that make us look like cry babies that deserve everything. I've seen a few developers moving to smaller games (IOS etc) and I wouldn't be surprised if its due to consumer backlash for not having a perfect game, and publisher dictatorship.

      I think the gaming future is bright, but I also fear the attitude of self entitlement that some gamers have.

        You're talking about EA though. They HAVE the resources to set up the proper servers for a game of this magnitude. We're not talking about some little indie start up who had to kickstart their MMO.

        Think of how many sales they'll miss out on because everyone at the start is screaming DON'T BUY, DOESN'T WORK because they didn't invest in a few more servers

          Yeah I agree EA is a big company (and I purely base this on speculation) even though they are big they would still have server costs to contend with and you don't become a big company by throwing money around on - like I mentioned previously - something that would be a waste eventually. They might be able to soak it up if presales/sales were good, but perhaps they weren't? I know Simcity is a classic, but I haven't seen that much of a buzz surrounding it (the rock I live under doesn't have access to the internet :P), so perhaps the expectations weren't as high. I don't know, I'm not justifying any actions by EA, I just tend to try and look at it as a whole and again all pure speculation drawn from my arse :P

            With everyone talking virtualization/cloud and the huge internet pipes available these days, it's not actually that hard to ramp up and down with demand. You just need the right people project managing it and having a good grasp of what technology is available and capable of these days. From my observations, these people don't work at Origin.

    I like that you contacted EA for a comment.

    I bet that they will reply the day all the issues are solved and ask you why everyone is making such a big fuss; did they forget to mention that the first week of launch is actually their final open beta :)

    After this and Diablo 3 anybody supporting an always-online DRM single player game should have their head examined.

      I dont know how anyone could think that always online would be worth it after the diablo 3 fiasco. fuck even ubisoft came around and removed their always online drm policy and blizzard will not begoing back to always online on any non mmo game in the future.

        Fancy that you mentioned Ubisoft. I still find it brilliantly amusing today that people where completely up in arms when Ubisoft did their always online DRM. There was so much dislike over their handling that they have been slowly ramping down that type of DRM...

        and then out comes SC2/D3 and suddenly everyone was "ok" w/ always online coz "it enhances the play experience". And still people continue to buy games that don't require always online.....

        Hahaha I have a feeling that Blizzard will definitely be using always-online from now on. After all it's in SC2 and D3 and they are not MMOs. I think their sales records will be enough to confirm this.

    I bought the game via Ozgameshop code via email.

    By the sounds of it, I'm SOL

    I'm not surprised they don't give a refund, they are wholly sh%&house\non existent with after sales support.

    I made the mistake of buying Worms for Android, ended up not working having the same problem as everyone else was having but because they do the sneaky second download of ~200mb when you first run it, it takes longer than the 15mins allowed by Google Play to get a refund to download, install and run for the first time.
    That leaves you in the position of "contacting the developer directly", good luck finding any sort of contact details for EA to organise a refund.

    I had purchased many of their board games variations and they were good but I will not buy from them again.

    Unfortunately most of the people making noise about a refund dont actually own the game or would be content if the problems are fixed in the next day or so. Im sure there are people who paid money who are genuine in their intent, but a lot more people simply want to create as much bad press for EA as they can. I know, because i myself want to see EA take a big hit.

    The situation with pre-orders and digital refunds is currently very shitty and I'd like to know what I can do to change it (apart from voting with my wallet which is a no brainer - once bitten twice shy and all).

    I envisage a new term when smoking some noobs - instead of "dude I totally PWN'd U" it will be "dude you got EA'd"

      Or when someone disconnects from a game, either willingly or unwillingly, the players message box will be littered with "LOL EA QUIT" instead of "LOL RAGE QUIT."

      "damn dude, you just got E'd in the A"

    You can challenge the credit card payment. Paying for a product and not receiving it is fraud.

    EB's return policy is 7 days no questions asked for a full refund. Some other retailers will be a battle, particularly the mass merchants.... and if you bought it online you're doomed. Why I DONT by online .. no recourse if it goes to shit.

    Maybe all of the people who are complaining about the launch should not buy games with Always On DRM in protest.
    I would love to play the new SimCity, but after being a part of the Diablo 3 fiasco, I will never again play an Always On game.
    And this begs the question - what is going to happen when these games are "no longer supported"? Will you still have a server to connect up to? You potentially are going to pull an old game off the shelf and not be able to play it.

      I fear the same thing, but the not buying it in protest will unfortunately only tell EA that people don't care about SimCity

    @Tubbytommy Absolutely unequivocally false. Credit cards and Australian consumer law protect consumers from faulty products. That includes online dependent games when their servers don't allow you to play the game satisfactorily.

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