When Sim City was first released, people literally could not play the game they paid good money for. At the time EA’s official policy was to offer refunds to people who had bought retail copies of the game, but digital owners weren’t granted the same privilege. We investigated precisely what that meant in terms of consumer rights in Australia and found that the situation here was slightly different. According to consumer law, considering the state Sim City was in at launch, EA would most likely have to deliver a refund to any Australian who requested one.
Interestingly CHOICE, the independent consumer rights watchdog, has now officially released a guide on precisely how you should approach getting a refund for Sim City should you choose to get one. The official statement from CHOICE is quite damning…
SimCity’s always-on feature means gamers 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.
CHOICE came to the same conclusion we did: the failures of Sim City are ‘major’ and, as such, consumers are well within their rights to demand a refund.
CHOICE believes these problems with SimCity constitute ‘major failures’ and therefore consumers have a right to demand a refund. The problems are considered ‘major’ because had a user known about them beforehand, it is unlikely that they would have ever bought the game.
If a consumer purchased SimCity and is still having trouble playing the game, then they have a right to a refund under Australian Consumer Law.
You could argue that these statements have come a little late, particularly when EA has now fixed a majority of the issues the game had, but CHOICE Head of Campaigns Matt Levey, believes that the game, in its current state still doesn’t deliver upon promises made to consumers at point of sale.
“The always-on DRM has created multiple problems since its release – servers have crashed and fans have been kicked out of the game. These problems still plague consumers today, albeit less severely,” he said.
“To add salt in the wound, the need for internet connection is not clearly communicated at the point of sale. A visit to both simcity.com and harveynorman.com.au confirm this.”
CHOICE recommends that consumers seeking a refund should…
• Get your refund directly from the retailer. Even if they are online; you do not need to contact EA or any other third party.
• Provide proof of purchase and the game itself, with or without the original packaging.
• Remember proof of purchase does not necessarily mean a receipt. For example a bank statement is sufficient.
• If you have trouble then ask to speak to the store’s manager or owner.
• If words like ‘consumer guarantee’, ‘acceptable quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘major failure’ don’t sway them, try out ‘ACCC’ and ‘Department of Fair Trading’ and see them come around.
• Make a complaint to the ACCC or your Department of Fair Trading (unique for each state) if the retailer refuses to refund the game.