When it comes to getting refunds on faulty goods, Australian consumers are quite well protected under Australian Consumer Law. As a consumer advocacy organisation we are often informing consumers of their rights with handy guides and cards.
The unmitigated disaster that is Electronic Art’s (EA) SimCity has been so great that we thought we might single it out for a potential refund.
SimCity includes an always-on feature, basically meaning gamers need to be connected to the internet perpetually 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.
Whatever the motive for the always-on-DRM, it has created a problem after the game was released when the servers crashed and locked fans out of enjoying the game they had just paid for.
SimCity’s fail is distinguished from other gaming disasters because its always-on-DRM means that these problems are still plaguing consumers today, albeit less severely.
If you didn’t buy SimCity then congratulations, however SimCity has not been the only game to struggle with these problems and probably won’t be the last. Given the disturbing rumours that Microsoft is considering swallowing the always-on-DRM cyanide pill with the Xbox 720, you may want to keep this information on hand.
How to get a refund on SimCity
- Go to the retailer who sold it to you
- Ask for a refund
OK I’ll explain things a little bit further.
In Australia you are protected under consumer guarantees. These ensure several things, including that a product will be of an ‘acceptable quality’ and is ‘fit for purpose’ (i.e. it does what it is supposed to do).
A game that regularly ceases gameplay and denies users access to their saved data due to the internet falling out (as it's known to do) or to server issues is not of an ‘acceptable quality’ nor is it ‘fit for purpose’. This is especially so because the always-on-DRM and its implications are not clearly explained at the point of sale.
These problems with SimCity constitute 'major failures' and therefore you have a right to demand a refund. The problems are considered 'major' because had you known about them beforehand, it is unlikely that you or any other reasonable consumer would have ever bought the game.
You can get your refund directly from the retailer; you do not need to contact EA or any other third party. Whoever sold you the game has to refund it for you, even if they are an online retailer.
You just need proof of purchase and the game itself, with or without the original packaging. This does not necessarily mean a receipt, for example a bank statement will do.
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. If they still hold out then make a complaint to the ACCC or your Department of Fair Trading (unique for each state).
The most ridiculous aspect of this always-on-DRM debacle is that ignoring the demands and opinions of consumers is what is really driving a lot of piracy in the first place. Hopefully we will see less of these heavy handed DRMs, but somehow I doubt it.
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Picture sourced from the SimCity website.