Thursday, October 01, 2015

Consumer Rights Act in UK Spells Trouble For Faulty Games

Starting today, in the UK consumer protection is being extended to digital content including video games. When you read the details, you'll wish that we had this in the US.

The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 is coming into focus as an effort to make rules regarding purchases and contracts much clearer for both customers and businesses. Why is this important (other then the obvious - better transparency, yea!)? In conjunction with another Bill passed in March of this year, it gives customers more options on what to do if the product they purchased was faulty.

Such as, and this is direct from the Act, consumers now have a 30 day return/refund window on any faulty physical or digital product. Yeah. If you bought AssCreed Unity, which has been marred with a very buggy release, you can get a full refund within 30 days. It doesn't matter if you've played through the entire game, or that it's a PC product, or that it's been opened. You got a faulty product. You get a refund. That's a pretty big hand up for consumers in the UK. And it's not just video games but also movies, music, eBooks, Steam services - anything digital is covered by this new Act.


Remember when Batman: Arkham Knight's PC version was pulled from shelves and online for it's massive bugs? The new Act would cover a refund (Steam will need to make some slight adjustments to their policy for UK customers, but it's still one of the better refund systems I've seen for digital content).

Companies such as Netflix and Amazon that provide online streaming of movies and tv shows are expected to abide by this Act as well. If they do not deliver on a service that they promised, UK citizens are allowed to file a dispute for a refund. The Act also provides better legal services that hold businesses accountable for not fulfilling their contracts to customers.

Now I don't know about you, but I rarely have issues with streaming movies. Really the only time I see a problem is when Verizon throttles my service. The memorable moments when digital content has been an issue for me was with video games. It's either problems with the software not liking my gaming computer (EA, I'm looking at you), or lots of bugs in the game that cause it to crash or become unplayable. More games are riddled with bugs at release. And as a lot of us know this is becoming the new norm. There's more pressure for developers to release products quickly or during holidays to boost console sales, and in turn, they send out shoddy games that require patching later. It's sad that we're accustomed to this now. We dislike it and gripe about it, but we still pre-order and buy the damn games at release, knowingly waiting for the updates. We tell ourselves it'll get better, but we're still promoting the release of unfinished work by buying them.

While I don't imagine this new UK Act will overturn the entire industry, but to have a major market of gaming sales could turn some heads. Maybe we'll finally get some gamers to open up their eyes and realize that yes, your wallet really does hold a lot of power. If you buy the games when they're buggy, developers are going to continue to release faulty products. If you hold off on your purchases and wait (which I hope will be a growing trend) until the bugs are fixed, you're sending a stronger message to the developers: Stop releasing broken games. We won't pay until we get a product that works as intended.

Good luck UK. I hope the Act succeeds and the backlash by businesses is low. Consumers deserve to get the products that they paid for, and work as intended.


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