Electronic Arts, the third-largest publisher and developer of video games in the world, has run up against consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over its Origin PC digital download service's no-refund policy in Australia following its launch in June 2011.
"It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that customers are not entitled to refunds under any circumstances," said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
"Where a product has a major failure, consumers can insist on a refund or replacement at their choice. Representations that this right has or can be excluded, restricted or modified are false or misleading."
From at least January 1, 2012, the ACCC received numerous complaints. This raised the regulatory body's concerns that EA had stated via its Origin terms and conditions, and via customer services representatives, that Australians were not entitled to refunds on digitally downloaded video games purchased through the platform. The ACCC was also concerned that EA had modified or restricted consumer guarantees for Australian Origin customers.
"Businesses such as EA selling digitally downloadable goods cannot avoid their responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law just because they are located outside of Australia," Sims said.
"If you sell to consumers in Australia, then the Australian Consumer Law applies to all goods or services you supply. This includes all of the ACL consumer guarantees, which cannot be excluded, restricted or modified."
Under the terms of its undertaking with the ACCC, EA has agreed to offer refunds to customers who purchased faulty games through Origin after January 1, 2012. Customers who has not previously contacted EA may do so to have their claim assessed, whereas customers who had been denied a refund can have their claims reassessed.
EA has also promised that it will not make any representations to Australian customers that it has a "no refunds" policy, or that Australian customers are not entitled to refunds. Moreover, the company will amend its terms and conditions to comply with Australian Consumer Law, and implement an Australian Consumer Law compliance program to fully train its staff.
"We're pleased to have worked cooperatively with the ACCC to resolve the ACCC's concerns and ensure our players in Australia have the best possible experience when purchasing and playing EA games," EA said in a statement via email.
"In addition to rights available to our players under the Australian Consumer Law, we are also proud to offer our global, industry-leading Great Game Guarantee that allows for digital returns within certain timeframes if anyone is not satisfied with a digitally-downloaded game from EA."
For customers wishing to make a claim, EA can be contacted by phone at 1800 894 823; by email at ACCC.firstname.lastname@example.org; by post at PO Box 1547, Sydney NSW 2000; or by web using the Origin help form.