Norway’s Consumer Council Files Complaint Against Nintendo, Origin, Sony And Steam

Norway’s Consumer Council Files Complaint Against Nintendo, Origin, Sony And Steam
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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.

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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.


    • It’s not so much game publishers as it is digital storefronts. Humble and GOG would have to follow all this stuff as well.

  • *whining* “But video games are a subscription service you guuuuuuys! Just because we charge for them like products and advertise them like products and package/distribute them like products doesn’t mean they’re products because products have too many totally unfair consumer rights attached to them! How else are we supposed to make moneeeeey?! BE FAIR.”
    – Game Publishers, basically

    • Seriously, though, there needs to be some kind of, “Stop fucking about,” law that says if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and was given birth to by a duck then it’s probably meant to be classed as a fucking duck and not a… I dunno, a fucking sheep, because you want to get some kind of grant or tax exemption that only applies to sheep – and just because you sold the duck with some fucking wool glued-on doesn’t mean you get to call it whatever the fuck you want.

      Complete games should pretty much be considered products. For example, when you buy Far Cry 5 on Steam, you should be purchasing a complete product that has some links to online subscription services – NOT the entire god damn thing being considered a fucking bolt-on to your Steam subscription service agreement to gain limited licence access to the publisher-owned digital content labelled ‘Far Cry 5’.

      That kind of publisher manoeuvering is a fully-conscious, deliberate action to reclassify what common sense understands to be a product, and it is performed wholly and explicitly for the sake of exploiting anti-consumer legal loopholes. And it’s fucked.

      • The problem is though is that’s the way software as always worked.

        When you purchase software, you don’t actually purchase the software itself. The software is still owned by whoever developed/published it. What you are buying is a license to use that software, which is explicitly laid out in every single end user license agreement (EULA) that nobody ever reads. Every piece of software, whether that’s games, office applications or whatever, have worked this way since software has been sold. Even with open source software, you are accepting a license of some kind to use it, such as the GNU General Public License. Music and movies work in a similar way…you don’t own the music or movie, you own a copy of it to listen to or watch.

        Software works differently to other physical products, in that sense. With a physical product, a manufacturer makes a physical thing and sells it to you. You now own that physical thing and they don’t. Software doesn’t work that way and never has. This is the exact same reasoning why we often argue until we are blue in the face that pirating software is NOT the same as physical theft, because it’s not – it’s a copyright infringement and a violation of the license – NOT theft.

        It’s really not a cut and dry case. Software by its nature is not a physical product – and we want to keep it that way in one sense and change it in another sense. It’s honestly a pretty tricky can of worms that someone’s going to need to tackle at some point. I don’t know what the solution is though.

        • Just for reference, EU courts have explicitly rejected the ‘licensed, not sold’ argument for software in the past.

          • There is only 2 EU courts and neither of them have dealt with this issue. Are you sure you’re not confusing domestic rulings from member states?

        • It’s also an area in which used game-trading is affected. Game publishers badly want to kill that shit dead the way book publishers only wish they could, despite the fact that there’s fuck all difference. (And they are always, persistently looking for a way to do it that doesn’t result in getting fucking crucified by consumers, like the xbone vs ps4 game-trading E3 PR debacle.)

          So… you don’t own the software any more than you own the text in a book… but you do own the book itself – that ‘product’ status seems tied up in its delivery mechanism.

          And we’ve already long establisehd that ownership of a book doesn’t extend to the copyright of the book’s contents… so it IS possible to divorce the two, right?

          Game publishers seem to be having their cake and eating it, too.

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