First they took down Valve, and now the competition regulator is going after Sony. But as part of the ACCC's legal claim, they've cited a number of instances where users tried to refund games on the PlayStation Store but couldn't — and what games they were trying to refund.
The regulator's legal filing outlines eight different scenarios where users tried to refund a game, successfully or otherwise, through PlayStation Support. The theme throughout the anecdotes is pretty straightforward: a user purchased a game digitally, downloaded the game, ran into some kind of issue, and then attempted to seek a refund through PlayStation's official support channels.
Some of the games are high profile, like Madden NFL 18 G.O.A.T. Edition or the Hitman reboot. Others are lower profile titles, like Aven Colony and the LEGO Ninjago Movie: Video Game. Other games aren't mentioned, but clearly identifiable — one user mentions complaining about a game that was "unplayable", and the chat with the support representative then goes on to mention Bungie and that the game cost $100 (a clear reference to Destiny 2, which launched in September 2017, the time when the ACCC alleges Sony Europe began refusing refunds to users).
User CK, who tried to refund LEGO Ninjago Movie: Video Game
On 4 October 2017, User CK received an email from "PlayStation" saying, in part, "[a]t the time of making your purchase of wallet funds, you asked us to provide you with immediate access to the funds and confirmed your understanding that this means you will not have a "cooling off period" and cannot cancel your purchase of wallet funds or get arefund'. By this email, the Wallet Representation When Adding Funds was made.
On 9 October 2017, User CK called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Scott". User CK reported that the game was corrupted and that it would not move to the next level. Further correspondence, by phone and by email, followed between User CK and Playstation Support. User CK confirmed that they had followed the trouble-shooting instructions, but that had not fixed the fault.
Sony Europe, through Leonard, made the Referral to Publisher Representation by saying the following.
(a) On 10 October 2017, "Leonard" from PlayStation Support emailed User CK saying: "As per our cancellation policy, you can request a refund within 14 days of your initial purchase, provided you have not downloaded, used, or streamed the content, unless the content itself is found to be faulty. This content is now available to use on your console and cannot be removed, as digital content cannot be returned to us. . . . If the publisher cannot resolve the issue, please forward us any correspondence and we will revisit your request and escalate to our head office".
On 10 October 2017, User CK responded by email: "It is the responsibility of the retailer to contact the manufacturer and resolve an issue with products which are not fit for purpose. It is the obligation of the retailer to issue a refund if a repair was unsuccessful. I have purchased the product from PlayStation 1 and asking for a refund of your faulty product after receiving unsuccessful repairs. Under Victorian consumer law this product qualifies for an automatic refund'.
Sony Europe made the Refund to Wallet Representation by saying the following (see (a) to (c) below). On or about 24 October 2017, the purchase was refunded to User CK's PSN wallet. On 28 October 2017, User CK sent an email to PlayStation Support saying: "The funds have not appeared in my bank account. Would you confirm that the refund was sent back onto my Visa card and not in the form of store credit'.
On 30 October 2017, User CK sent an email to PlayStation Support saying: "Unfortunately the funds have been sent to my PlayStation wallet account instead of my bank account. This is a store credit and not a refund. Please refund the funds properly onto my visa card as this is where the purchase was originally sent from". On 30 October 2017, User CK called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Rebecca".
(a) User CK was told that "we have refunded it back to your wallet on your account, so you can use it on the PlayStation Store but we won't be refunding it back to your payment method' and that "within your AGL, it doesn't cover this. This is our terms of service. We stand by our terms of service. You had a refund back to the wallet on the account and that's a decision that has been made by head office".
(b) On 30 October 2017, "Rebecca" from PlayStation Support emailed User CK saying "As previously discussed, regrettably we are unable to offer a refund for purchase back to the payment method following out [sic] Terms of Service".
(c) On 30 October 2017, "Augustas" from PlayStation Support emailed User CK saying "As your refund request was already escalated to the highest point and was refused it means that it is the final decision of the head office to only issue a refund back to your PSN wallet'. On 2 November 2017, User CK emailed PlayStation Support referring Sony Europe to the ACC's guidelines on repair, replace and refund.
On 5 November 2017, "David" from PlayStation Support emailed User CK saying that Sony Europe had now refunded the purchase to User CK's payment method.
User JA, who tried to refund Aven Colony
User JA purchased and downloaded the game Aven Colony from the PlayStation Store. On 31 July 2017, User JA requested a refund via an online contact form on the PlayStation website.
On 30 September 2017, "Leonard" from PlayStation Support called User JA about User JA having trouble logging into his account. Leonard said the account was temporarily banned because User JA had reversed the payment for Aven Colony with the bank. Leonard said that User JA needed to pay the money back to have the account unbanned.
Sony Europe, through Leonard, made the Referral to Publisher Representation by saying the following.
(a) User JA was told "if you can contact the developers and they actually give us authorisation for a refund, and we- we'd happily just refund that game back for you" and that "if you contact them and just forward us any correspondence from them just admitting fault with the game, then, yeah, I mean, if they say, you know, the- you know, the game is unplayable or, you know, that they're - this has been affecting a certain number of users, if you can get any kind of correspondence from them saying that, we'll happy just refund that back to you".
On 12 October 2017, User JA called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Chris". User JA informed Chris that User JA had attempted to contact the developer but the developer had not responded. On 12 October 2017, User JA called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Ibrahim".
Sony Europe, through Ibrahim, made the Referral to Publisher Representation by saying the following.
(a) User JA was told "in regards to a refund for this game, we can't actually issue that refund. Not — not that we don't want to. We can't. Only the game developer can give us permission to refund it once the game has been downloaded'.
On 25 October 2017, User JA called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Ryan". Sony Europe, through Ryan, made the No Obligation to Refund Representation by saying the following.
(a) User JA was told "because the game is now thoroughly working and you're unable to provide a screenshot of the game ' otherwise, I'm afraid the only option for yourself is if you just want to pursue a refund further would be to contact Team 17 who are the publishers of the game".
(b) User JA was told "you are entitled to your compromise. But unfortunately you have to go to the publisher of the game, not the developer. The publisher which is Team 17'.
(c) User JA was told "In terms of the actual sort of stability of the game, that is something that's unfortunately entirely in the hands of the developer. As a platform which PlayStation is, we only process transactions on their behalf essentially. So once you've bought a game, the money goes straight through to them. Any refunds that we can process is basically just credit from us. And so we can later recuperate from that — from the developer anyway. That's why our — our — that's why our refund policy is strictly if you have not downloaded the game and it's within 14 days".
(d) User JA was told: "because it's not a PlayStation specific problem ... there, there's not much further that we can do at our end. But as I said, get that dialogue open with Team 17 and just I explain your dissatisfaction with their game".
User HP, who tried to refund Hitman
User HP purchased and downloaded the Hitman game via the PlayStation Store.
On 5 October 2017, User HP requested a refund via an online contact form on the PlayStation website because "the game doesn't work keep telling me to download it'. On 6 October 2017, User HP called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Cameron".
Sony Europe, through Cameron, made the No Obligation to Refund Representation to User HP by saying the following.
(a) User HP was told "unfortunately, due to our refunds policy, we're not actually able to offer refunds on things that have already been downloaded'. When User HP queried "Even if they don't work?", Cameron made the statement in (b) below.
(b) User HP was told "There's actually no way for us to refund it. Because of the way the game works, it's not actually a game. It's a licence for a game, and we buy that from the publisher, and that's like a single-use code, so when you start to download the game, we can't actually take the code back and use that again".
(c) When User HP queried whether this was the position "even though it's [the game's] not working", Cameron said "Yes".
(d) User HP was told "if there is an issue with the game itself, you would be eligible for a refund, but that wouldn't be from us.
It would be from the publisher because it was a problem with their game".
User JS, who tried to refund Call of Duty: WW2
User JS purchased and downloaded the Call of Duty: WWII game via the PlayStation Store.
On 2 November 2017, User JS requested a refund by "refund request" form from the PlayStation website because User JS said the game was "faulty" and "in its current state it is not functioning properly".
On 3 November 2017, User JS called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Ryan". Ryan confirmed that User JS was "asking for a refund". Sony Europe, through Ryan, made the No Obligation to Refund Representation to User JS by saying the following.
(a) User JS was told that "generally, if you've downloaded the game, it's actually out with our refund policy. So if you wanted a refund, you would have to go via your Activision". User JS was also told that "at this point, if you would like a refund, you may have to go through Activision ... just confirm with them. If it was fully faulty as well, that would also be Activision".
(b) User JS was told that "our refund policy with digital games is that, if you report within 14 days, which, granted, you have, and that the game has not been downloaded - that's purely because there's no way for us to physically remove games from your console".
(c) User JS was told that "because you've downloaded and played the game, that's out with our returns policy. That's across all digital games, it's not a Call of Duty specific thing, [JS]. It's just all our outright returns policy with digital games, okay".
(d) User JS was told that "if you are adamant on having a game refunded, Activision is open to communications going in, so if you approach them, they - maybe see what they can do, okay".
User BM, who tried to refund Raid: World War 2
User BM purchased and downloaded the Raid: World War II game via the PlayStation Store.
On 18 November 2017, User BM requested a refund via an online contact form on the PlayStation website.
On 20 November 2017, User BM's parent, LM, called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Michael". Michael confirmed that LM was seeking a refund because of a problem with the game. User BM explained that "It's just a buggy mess.
A lot of things just don't work" and "You can't start certain levels 1 and stuff like that". User BM confirmed that "I've contacted the dev[eloper]. I've got a support ticket that they're just ignoring. I had a look on their Twitter page, and they're basically ignoring all of their console players".
Sony Europe, through Michael, made the No Obligation to Refund Representation and the Referral to Publisher Representation to User BM, by saying the following.
(a) User BM was told that "once the game is downloaded, there's 1 no refund available and that "we would have to get I correspondence from the developer that states it can't be fixed'.
Features of false, misleading or deceptive conduct (b) In the context where User BM described the game as "a buggy mess", told Michael that "a lot things just don't work', told Michael that certain levels in the game could not be started, described the game as "fully broken", and said User BM had already contacted the developer but was being ignored, Michael 1 said "I can't give you a refund, end of, really, because the game's been downloaded. And in the terms of service, it advises you once the game is downloaded there's no refund available".
Michael went on to tell User BM that he (Michael) could "escalate a refund request" only if the game was "unfixable" and User BM obtained correspondence from the developer stating that "it's non-fixable" and provided it to Sony.
User BS, who tried to refund Madden NFL 18
User BS purchased and downloaded the Madden NFL 18 G.O.A.T Holiday Edition game via the PlayStation Store.
On 10 January 2018, User BS contacted Sony Europe about a problem with the game via an online contact form on the PlayStation website.
On 3 February 2018, User BS called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Ian" about "an ongoing problem with a game on my PS4 Pro, Madden NFL 18 G. O.A. T Edition". User BS said "the I game crashes about a minute into any - playing any mode. I've tried - I've tried all of the troubleshooting that I've been told to do from EA and PlayStation". [
Sony Europe, through Ian, made the Referral to Publisher Representation to User BS, by saying the following.
(a) User BS was told "Okay. Now, what we need from you now is confirmation from the publisher of the game that you've completed all of their troubleshooting, and that the game is broken for you".
(b) User BS was told "Again, you're going to have to get, like, some type of confirmation from the publisher that - we can confirm that you've completed all of our troubleshooting".
(c) User BS was told "Once you do that - once you get your confirmation, obviously we would need to see that, yeah, so you send that to us and then we'll take it from there" . (d) User BS was told "Okay. Brilliant. So once you've got confirmation from the publisher that the game's broken, we 'II take it forward from there".
Later on 3 February 2018, User BS called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Chris". User BS said "So I just called them [the publisher] ... They said that it was a PlayStation code, not alike, an application error code, or console code or something".
Sony Europe, through Chris, made the Referral to Publisher Representation to User BS, by saying the following.
(a) User BS was told "So I know this is a bit of a pain there, Brent, but I would advise - contact EA again... See if they can offer any troubleshooting. If they won't offer troubleshooting or can't offer troubleshooting, if you can get them to give you proof that that is the case - so just get them to send you an email with any troubleshooting saying that that's all that they can do for you, or send you an email saying it is purely a PlayStation issue, you know, so that we can then, you know, escalate that at our end...
It's just that - so that we can escalate it at our end, we do need, you know, confirmation there just from the publisher saying, essentially, that they're not going to help you.... reply to [the email Sony Europe previously sent]... with, you know, the proof there that Electronic Arts aren't going to help you and we can then certainly try and take up from there."
One user who tried to refund Firewall Zero Hour
User 1 purchased and downloaded the Firewall Zero Hour game via the PlayStation Store.
On 1 September 2018, User 1 called PlayStation Support and spoke with "Alan". User 1 reported that the game "keeps dropping out of the server and there's been problems with if'.
User 1 asked for a refund in the form of PSN credit.
Sony Europe, through Alan, made the Referral to Publisher Representation to User 1, by saying the following.
(a) User 1 was told that PlayStation's policy is to "only offer refunds for games that have not been downloaded or played or used or the content's not been redeemed'. Because User 1 had downloaded and played the game, "the only kind of avenue you have for this one is for if the game itself is faulty".
(b) User 1 was then told that, "to prove that [fault], we have to have correspondence from the publisher through yourself to say that they are unable to resolve the issues you're experiencing in your game".
( c) Alan said that "If you get the correspondence to say that they're unable to resolve the issues you're experiencing in the game, we will be able to refund that for you". Alan further said that "[g]oing onto Youtube isn't proof of that [fault]'and "that's not going to give us any evidence to say that the game isn't working for yourself'.
Alan said that "without that [email from the publisher], I'm afraid we wouldn't be able to do anything with that. That's the refund policy that we have."
The rest of the ACCC's claims, and the user experiences outlined, can be read here.