Gamers Are Lucky To Live In Australia

Gamers Are Lucky To Live In Australia
Image: CD Projekt Red
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It’s easy to take a lot of things for granted. That’s especially true when something like Cyberpunk 2077 comes along, and you remember that Australians have the safety of our notoriously powerful consumer protection laws.

Refunds are, despite what our local laws often say, never something to be taken for granted. Even in a country like Australia, the consumer protections only hold because regulators frequently and repeatedly go to the mat to inflict fresh wounds on retailers and platform holders whenever they stray. It’s a constant war. Valve getting served to the tune of $3 million, years after they’d implemented their existing refund policy, didn’t stop Sony from refusing digital refunds locally.

Unsurprisingly, arguments like “it’s not actually a game” and “only the game developer can give us permission to refund it” didn’t fly with the Federal Court. And earlier this year, amidst the drama of COVID-19, Sony paid out $3.5 million. A bargain, really, when the court found the maximum penalty could have been “at least $63.9 million”.

It’s worth remembering, because all those arguments, cheeky tricks and refusal of refunds that got Sony, Valve, Kogan, MSY, EB Games, EA and so many other companies laughed out of Australian courts?

They’re being deployed overseas, and gamers are getting absolutely shafted.

The only platforms where users have been fortunate seems to have been on Steam. Microsoft generally processes refunds pretty quickly, but some users are reporting that their refund requests are being denied, even after CD Projekt Red’s open mea culpa.

It’s a disaster. It’s certainly not helped by the fact that CD Projekt appears to have clearly panicked, offering refunds before telling platform holders. But on the whole, Australians are fortunate in that they have a degree of protection that’s flat-out not available overseas. Gamestop, for instance, has started openly refusing refunds, saying anyone affected should contact CD Projekt instead.

That sort of behaviour would immediately get shut down in Australia. Australian consumer law dictates that the seller also bares responsibility for the product, and no amount of legalese or smooth wording can wash away that fact.

Here’s a reminder from the ACCC’s win against Sony, where Sony had attempted to tell users that they couldn’t seek refunds after 14 days, or if a game had been downloaded (emphasis mine):

Between October 2017 and November 2017, SIENE (through its call centre agents), in trade or commerce … engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive, and made false or misleading representations to each concerning the existence, exclusion or effect of any right or remedy they may have had, by representing that, even if a game had a major failure or some other failure to comply with a guarantee that could not be, or had not been, remedied, SIENE was not required to refund the users more than 14 days after purchase or if the game had been downloaded, when in fact there is no such limit on consumers’ rights to obtain redress from suppliers of goods under ss. 259 and 263 of the [Australian Consumer Law], in contravention of ss.1 8 and 29(1)(m) of the [Australian Consumer Law].

A key part there: obtaining redress from suppliers of goods. Sony might not make Cyberpunk 2077, but if you bought it through Sony, then Sony’s legally required to process the refund in accordance with Australian consumer laws. The same applies whether it’s a physical copy of a game or a digital code, and it applies to any platform holder or storefront you buy it from.

So instances like this, where at least two Australian gamers were refused refunds on Cyberpunk 2077, simply won’t fly.

User Kremeleon also provided some screenshots of upside down trees glitching through the screen, and severe artifacing. While it’s up for debate how frequent or how impactful those things might be on gameplay, I’d simply point to the fact that if the ACCC could force refunds for Fallout 76, there’s little reason why Cyberpunk 2077 wouldn’t fall under the same banner.

If visual errors, lag, server problems and graphical anomalies were enough to be considered a major fault under Australian consumer law, then Cyberpunk 2077‘s state at launch — regardless of what CD Projekt might patch in weeks or months later — would surely qualify too. It doesn’t matter what the developer does after the fact: it’s the state of the game at the point it was purchased that counts.

Now, naturally, local retailers are going to push this all the time. Even after JB and EB Games started tacitly accepting refunds without question, there were still isolated reports of individuals who had been refused refunds, although those have dwindled in the last few days. It’s mostly been international platforms treating Australian users just like everyone else.

But Australian gamers at least can be secure in the knowledge that they have the backing of the competition regulator and its near-flawless record when it comes to situations like these. Companies, platform holders and developers will always try and push the boundaries, obfuscate, or make things more difficult. Users overseas don’t have that same kind of backing, so when CD Projekt stuffs up the messaging and pissed off customers get pinballed between developer, publisher, platform holder over and over again, there’s often no real recourse.

Our fortune is that our competition laws act like a rubber band, snapping companies back to a more reasonable position via the force of a few million dollars whenever things get pushed too far. And not every country is so lucky — and not every country has governments, or statutory bodies established by their governments — to have regulatory forces that fight to protect that right.

Update 18/12: Oh boy.

Note: if you’re having trouble getting refunds, the ACCC recommends users “make a complaint to the ACCC or their local state or territory consumer protection regulator”. The ACCC has guidance on how to make a complaint here. There’s also a list here of the consumer protection agencies for every state and territory.

Comments

  • Just lodged my complaint with the ACCC over GOG’s automated response of ” do you want store credit?” when the title of the refund topic clearly stated “refund to credit card”, followed by them ignoring the follow up email. For a so-called “voluntary” refund policy, they sure as shit aren’t inclined to follow it when it involves people actually getting their money back.

      • It was an automated response that came close to immediately after my email and they asked “is store credit okay?” to which the answer is hell no. The second email replying with the “further information” they want is the one they’re completely ignoring. There’s some big boy ACCC breaches going on when they’re even trying on store credit.

    • The question asks you if you want store credit, it’s NOT denying you a refund to your card and ACCC will point that out to you and if you dont reply in a timely fashion they will give store credit. If you regularly buy on GoG its best getting store credit for the simple reason being you avoid other charges for such when it comes to purchasing through them, banks like NAB will hit you for international exchange rates even if paid through Paypal. GoG is CDPR anyway, dont forget that.

    • No shit, right? Anyone is lucky to live in Australia compared to the vast majority of nations on this planet. We are so shit in so many ways, but those are things like being shit in relation to adhering to fairly applying standards for human decency and fairness in laws and governance as opposed to shit compared to other nations.

    • Fuckin’ aye! Australia is relatively back to normal and we are able to be sociable again while being responsible. All because we realised that a virus doesn’t give a rat’s about our personal freedoms or political affiliations.

      US: 13 million infected. India: 10.5 million infected. Yeesh!

  • I have a genuine question to this, can customers get refused a refund if they’ve exceeded a certain play time? I know there are reports where people who have played cyberpunk for 10 hours have received a refund, but i’m wondering if there is a line drawn where if you’ve exceeded say, 20 hours, does that constitute that the customer has made a decision to commit hours into a product, therefore constitutes that a refund would be unfair? I’m curious as to what the barriers are?

    I also say this because alot of people are posting that they aren’t receiving a refund yet not many have posted their actual time in game. I’m glad that people are getting a refund though, Australian consumer laws are quite tight! I just hope people aren’t taking an opportunity to get money back when they’ve already sunk 30+ hours into the product.

      • To add to this the protections under ACL are not time bound, thus the play time excuse isn’t valid anyway.

        If I buy a product that doesn’t live up to expectations by malfunctioning 3 years after purchase when it would be expected to last 5 or so then I still have protections. Same should go for play time.

        The interesting thing about gaming and the current Australian Consumer Law is the shift towards Software as a Service and only buying a license – this essentially then comes down to providing a service rather than a product but the ACCC still treat games as products – I feel like it’s a weird grey area if some of these companies were aware of they could try to exploit the difference in the protections.

  • No. Under Australian law, time is not a factor if a product is faulty.

    (There are a few conditions under the law of what is a covered by the law, and what falls under warranty/insirance)

    For non-Austrsluans 2 to 4 hours is what’s written in most policies. They think that’s enough time to determine if the game is un-runnable on your machine. Which is an arbitrary number, with no real backing… its mostly there to stop people buying/refunding games excessively as faux demo’s.

    They could refuse a refund to an Australian, then its a legal matter for the regulator or the courts.

    The question is after X amount of hours, what was so broken that you can not play it anymore… but didn’t discover or couldn’t tolerate anymore after X hours. A refund means you as a customer have no hope an solution is forthcoming that will fix it that will make you play it again (developers are not working on a solution or refuse to fix it, or waved the yellow flag in this case)

  • Interesting.. because this was the reply I received from PlayStation Support regarding my request for a refund for the PS4 copy I purchased:

    “ Thank you for contacting PlayStation.

    CD Projekt Red is currently working on patches and updates to fix bugs and crashes, and to improve overall gameplay experience of Cyberpunk 2077.

    Please visit https://en.cdprojektred.com/ for information on any patches or updates to Cyberpunk 2077.”

    I’m unsure if this is a generic email to anyone who bought it, or if this is a direct response to my refund request. Either way, off to the ACCC I go, I guess…

    Been having a great time on the Series S version, though!

    • Its a generic email deflection, they are hoping customers will be happy with patches. You just have to escalate that to a refund. Under Australian law you can ask for a refund if you think a repair will not reasonable address the issues in a reasonable time frame.

      The fact CDPR came out and said they will honour refunds, means Sony as a third party has no legal ground.

      Also still complain to ACCC, Sony is on their watch list and after Fallout76 case it set precedent in consumer behaviour.

      • It’s not so much about whether you believe a repair could fix the problem. Rather it is whether the fault is considered “major” or “minor”, where a major fault is one that would have caused you not to purchase the product had you known about it.

        For major faults, you’re entitled to a refund. For minor faults, you’re entitled to a replacement or a repair (of course for software where every copy behaves identically, replacement won’t solve the problem). The retailer might offer a refund for minor faults, but that’s on top of ACL guarantees.

  • Ubisoft went out of their way to not refund Legion due to the save issue. They dodged me for a week and rep’s would just “escalate” the issue. Referred it to PayPal after their 10 days of having to give the seller time to respond I was finally refunded. Fun fact Ubisoft are still yet to respond to my request (request was made on 1st November) My tip to anyone buying from an overseas seller like GOG/Steam/Microsoft/Sony use PayPal. These large companies will do everything to circumvent our ACL or their representatives would just have no idea about it, PayPal acting in Australia will enforce the ACL for you. Think of it as an added layer of protection

    • Another reason why you should always use Paypal where possible – it is an added layer of protection all round.
      I had a fraudulent charge against my paypal account – very weird it was addressed to me as well so the product would have just come to me right? But still something fishy going on and was compromised – Paypal sorted it out before the bank did. I called both parties but Paypal acted first.

      They’re bloody good and worth using

      • PayPal’s protection is certainly pretty good, but in instances where PSN/Xbox are involved, doesn’t it act just like a chargeback,, in that you’ll indeed get your money back eventually, but you’ll also generally find your entire PSN/Xbox Live account banned?

      • Maybe in your case. I bought a few hundred bucks worth of faulty weights and PayPal refunded me if I paid postage back to the seller. You know how expensive WEIGHTS are to post?

        I got screwed.

  • My debacle is that I bought a physical copy when I was on holidays up in Surfers, but when I got back home and started reading all the trouble people were having I decided I would take it back to BigW, well during the trip I lost my receipt which in most cases wouldn’t be an issue as you can track it back through your bank statements……I paid cash 🙁 so I have an unopened ps4 version and cannot refund because I cannot prove where I bought it from and Big W don’t want a bar of me. So i don’t know where I stand, guess I’m stuck with a nice $80 plastic door stop.

  • Anyone get a refund on Epic with more than 2 hours gameplay? They knocked me back.

    From all stuffing around in game it’s up to like 3hrs 40 in game time.

    I can’t even get out the chair at viktors (first time there). Erased save games started again and same issue. Can’t proceed, just can’t interact with him. Verified my game files, same issue.

          • Report to ACCC they nailed Bethesda for F76 for pulling the “game hours” line. I know EPIC is on ACCC watch list for Fortnite complaints. (If you can read up on that ruling maybe quote it too).

            Sadly Epic is following its North American policy in breach of Australian law.

            You need to be able to speak to a human with actual power, a manager. Sadly it will be a slog. Feel free to remind them that Valve and Bethesda were fined millions. Does a manager want to cost the company millions for a $90

            Get on social media, shame them, complain to CDPR too.

          • P.S. Could always get Kotaku to write an article that Epic is refusing to comply with Australia law. “Contact -Story suggestion”

            Epic is holding out profusely to not issue refunds in the wake that all other vendors are.

            Its funny they believe fighting Apple is good for gamers, when they refuse to comply with the law when it comes to Fortnite and its game stores.

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