For the past eight years CHOICE, Australia's biggest independent consumer organisation, has been running the Shonkys — an awards ceremony that names and shames Australia's 'shonkiest' products and services. The Shonkys are taking place right now and EA Australia has just won an 'award' for its handling of the debacle that was the Sim City launch.
In a tweet making the announcement CHOICE claimed that EA Australia won the award for "making customers pay to exercise their human rights" by charging consumers $2.48 a minute to complain about Sim City's troubled launch on the EA Australia tech support line.
When Sim City launched as an online only product there was outrage, after consumers literally could not play the product they paid for, when EA's server broke beneath the weight of incredible demand. That launch, and EA's handling of that launch, was problematic to say the least. During the launch EA announced it would not be providing Origin users a refund on the product, a move that went against the ACCC's code of conduct. EA Australia later released a note stating that it would comply with consumer rights laws in Australia. Regardless, it was an extremely flawed product on day one and beyond.
Tom Godfrey, CHOICE head of media, took issues with Sim City's always-on feature.
"EA is winning a Shonky for irresponsibly releasing a game before it is ready, and then have the tenacity to charge for customer service. CHOICE believes that consumers shouldn’t have to pay to complain," he said.
"SimCity’s always-on feature means you need to be connected to the internet in order to play. This appears to be a misguided Digital Rights Management (DRM) measure to fight piracy, although EA have denied this is the reason for the feature. The always-on DRM created multiple problems - servers crashed and fans were kicked out of the game."
In addition to the award, CHOICE also sent a letter to EA Australia demanding it drop the $2.48 a minute charge on its support line: "[T]he very least EA can do is scrap the $2.48 a-minute fee on your Australian support line, and ensure that you test your products based on real world situations before launching them to unsuspecting customers."
You can read the whole letter here.
We've contacted EA locally and will update when we receive a response.