Let’s set up a scenario: you read/watch/fantasise about Studio X’s next big upcoming video game, you pre-order it, you count the days until it arrives, you open the box/download it, and it is broken or buggy. Now what?
MyGaming spoke to several retailers and distributors, as well as an attorney, to see what rights you have as a consumer and how you can go about getting a refund.
Nicholas Hall is an attorney, chair of Make Games SA, and an avid gamer. He gave us the legal low-down on how you should go about returning your bum copy.
“There are a couple of things that need to be noted first: Physical and digital copies of games are considered “goods”, and games, in terms of the law, are not software, they are considered for the most part as films (thanks to a court case from 1996),” said Hall.
“There is no general right of return under SA law. This means you can’t decide to return a good on a whim. The Consumer Protection Act and Electronic Communications and Transactions Act law specify certain instances when a consumer can lawfully return goods.”
Hall said that under the ECT Act, any purchased goods or services from an online store carries a 7-day “cooling off” period. This means that boxed copies of games can be returned, for any reason, as long as it is sealed/unopened. “So, if you bought your game online, you cannot rely on the ECT Act to return it, even if it is buggy to hell and back, if you opened it – which you would need to do in order to see that is was buggy.”
“Out of the various rights of return given under the CPA, only two are really applicable,” said Hall.
“The first is that if you have not seen the actual goods – a boxed copy of a game you ordered online – then on delivery you are entitled to inspect it, and if the goods do not meet the ‘type or quality’ you could reasonably expect then the consumer can refuse delivery.”
This is applicable to broken discs, the wrong version of the game, or the wrong game.
“Unfortunately this isn’t really a viable option in the scenario where the game is buggy, because in order to find this out you’d have to accept delivery in order to open it and play it.”
Hall said that this leaves gamers with only one option: the general warranty of quality that is implied in every sale of a good.
“Basically, our law says that any time anybody sells you something a warranty of quality is attached to that sale. What this implied warranty says is that the consumer is entitled to receive goods that:
- Are reasonably suitable for the purpose that they are intended to be used for;
- Are of good quality, free of defects, and in good working order; and
- Will be durable and usable for a reasonable period of time.
Hall said that if your game does not meet this warranty, then you can return it for a full refund, replacement, or repair, up to 6 months after receiving it. “What is important to note is that the consumer gets to elect which one they want, and they get to do so at the supplier’s cost and without penalty.”
“Another important thing to note is that the liability for this warranty goes up the supply chain. So you can go to the retailer who sold it to you, or the actual company who developed the game.”
The question is – does a buggy game break this warranty?
“I would argue that if the bug is sufficiently game-breaking it probably would. For example, with Watch Dogs a lot of people where unable to play due to uPlay not allowing them into the game. Clearly the defect is so severe that the game is not in good working order. Minor bugs or occasional errors probably wouldn’t meet this criteria, though.”
“In short, if you bought a game and the game had such a game-breaking bug that you effectively couldn’t play it, the consumer is entitled to return it to the retailer they purchased it from and demand a full refund.” Hall said that this does not apply if the game is simply “bad”, like Impire.
If the retailer refuses, report them to the National Consumer Commission, take them to small claims court, or, if you can get enough like-minded gamers together, institute a class action lawsuit.
The Retailers and Distributors
We spoke to several local distributors and retailers to ask them about their return policies when it came to broken games.
“Defective games and other software may be exchanged for the same game/software, but no refunds will be payable. This can be found in our returns policy, under ‘Exceptions to the general rule’ in section 1.5. Our refund policy complies with CPA regulations.”
“BT Games does consider returns or replacements for our clients on all products. We fall in line with the returns/exchanges/repair procedures as laid down by our suppliers as well as the CPA requirements.”
The regular procedures are to be followed before we action a return, refund, or exchange. These include:
- Faulty item being within a warranty period;
- Clients may be required to trouble-shoot or receive support from the distributor’s service centres first, and if a legitimate fault is found a return authorisation is issued;
- Proof of purchase is required; and
- No damage or abuse, etc.
Takealot did not reply to questions sent to them.
Megarom advised dissatisfied customers to contact their call centre – the number is attached to games they distribute – and they will assist. Each case will be judged on an individual basis.
“All software carries a 30 day limited warranty. ‘Out of box failures’ (manufacturing faults) as experienced by a consumer within 30 days from date of purchase may only be returned to the retail outlet who in turn will contact Ster Kinekor for authorisation once satisfied that the problem/fault is valid considering a technical evaluation.”
“The software may then be exchanged, on condition that there is proof of purchase and the software has not been mishandled or damaged in any way by the consumer and is in its original casing. Note that the software/game may only be exchanged for the exact same software/game purchased and may not be exchanged for any other software/game.”
In terms of a gamer being unsatisfied with a product, “returns for any other reason other than [out of the box failure and/or manufacturing faults] can unfortunately not be executed.”
“Every game that leaves our warehouse will have an FPB sticker on with a support contact number. This support number will get you in contact with Apex who will provide step-by-step assistance with troubleshooting the game whatever the fault is. If the game proves to be faulty, you will get a reference number that will enable you to get a replacement of the same game at the same store. You will need your proof of purchase (till slip) and original packaging/box for the store to assist you. Dissatisfied customers, when it comes to buggy games, will be dealt with on an individual basis.
Tell us about your attempts to return a broken or buggy game, in the comments and forum