It’s not just loot boxes that are a bone of contention for regulators around the world. Earlier this year, the Norwegian Consumer Council took Nintendo for task for not letting users refund digital pre-orders. The council has since upped their criticism, filing a complaint to the Norwegian Consumer Authority that includes Nintendo, Valve, EA and Sony.
The gaming industry has come a long way when it comes to offering consumer refunds, particularly in Australia. But as far as Norway is concerned, the industry hasn't gone far enough - Nintendo in particular.Read more
The complaint, a copy of which was provided to Kotaku Australia, alleges that Steam, Origin and the PlayStation Store “do not fulfil the criteria” that would make them exempt from consumer regulations in Norway, or the European Union, that allows users the right of withdrawal.
“Steam (owned by Valve Corporation), Origin (owned by Electronic Arts), and Playstation Store (owned by Sony Interactive Entertainment) are in breach of the right of withdrawal by not getting express consent from the consumer and his acknowledgement that he thereby loses his right of withdrawal,” the council’s formal complaint to the consumer authority reads.
One sticking point is the marketplaces’ alleged failure to gain “explicit consent from consumers regarding the loss of the right of withdrawal”, which the council says is a prerequisite under local consumer law.
“Steam does not mention the right of withdrawal at all during the purchasing process, while Origin and Playstation Store mention the right of withdrawal without following the formal requirements for this.”
The council also reaffirmed their original complaint against Nintendo for refusing to allow users to cancel pre-orders through the eShop. Nintendo has formally rejected the allegations, telling Pressfire that they disagreed with the council’s interpretation of European consumer law.
An automated translation of this article indicates that Nintendo’s position is that the consumer’s right to cancel is void once payment has been made, because users have the opportunity to pre-load a game.
The Council’s interpretation of the language in this consumer rights directive from the European Parliament, which covers digital content, is that the exemption doesn’t apply until you can actually play the game. They also argue that the eShop and Nintendo, much like Steam, Origin and the PlayStation Store, fail to gain express consent from users about forgoing their right to withdrawal.
For such contracts, the consumer should have a right of withdrawal unless he has consented to the beginning of the performance of the contract during the withdrawal period and has acknowledged that he will consequently lose the right to withdraw from the contract. – Directive 2011/83/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council
Part of Nintendo’s position was also laid out in the council’s letter to the consumer authority, along with correspondence from Nintendo’s German branch.
As for Origin, the PlayStation Store and Steam, a representative from the council said that the platforms could fulfil the express consent requirement with a simple adjustment. “The platforms would have to inform the consumer more consistently before the purchase about the steps they have taken to void the right to cancel. Demanding the ticking of a box where the relevant information is shown, would be enough,” Finn Myrstad, director of digital services at the Norwegian Consumer Council, said.
The next step from here is up to the Norwegian Consumer Authority. Whether the authority opts to encourage other EU enforcement bodies isn’t known at this stage. But it is another point of pressure on publishers and their digital marketplaces, and another instance of EU member nations ratcheting up regulatory pressure on the video game industry. And when it comes to global marketplaces like Steam and PSN, what often gets adopted in one continent eventually gets rolled out everywhere else.