Sony Interactive Entertainment is under investigation in Australia over a refund policy that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) believes is illegal in that country. Australian consumer law deems that consumers must get a refund, repair or replacement if a product is deemed faulty or is of poor quality. The law also covers products that do not match their descriptions.
This law does not just cover retail purchases, though. It also covers digital purchases, and that includes video games. More and more consumers are downloading games with analysts believing that most, if not all, game sales could be completely digital by 2022. Naturally, that means that game downloads should adhere to the same laws as physical products. The problem arises with the fact that many games are now getting released before they're ready, resulting in a record number of game-breaking bugs and glitches. Most notably, AAA titles, such as Fallout 76, have experienced so many bugs and glitches that their releases have hurt the reputations of the developers releasing them.
The ACCC alleges that Sony Europe consistently told consumers that it would not refund games, even if they were faulty, if those titles had been already downloaded or if 14 days had passed since the title was purchased. Sony Europe also said that it would not provide refunds for games considered faulty unless the developer specifically told them to. Furthermore, refunds were only provided using PlayStation currency. According to the ACCC, this is illegal in Australia, where law dictates that refunds must be given for faulty products. ACCC Chair Rod Sims said:
“We allege that Sony Europe gave false and misleading information to their customers about their rights in relation to games sold via its PlayStation Store.
Consumer guarantees do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded as we allege Sony Europe told consumers, and refunds must be given in the form of original payment unless a consumer chooses to receive it in store credit.”
Consumers who buy digital products online have exactly the same rights as they would at a physical store."
The ACCC alleges that this behavior from Sony Europe goes back to around September 2017, which is also around the time that Destiny 2 launched. It's likely that players downloading that game began to file complaints about Sony's refund policy, due to the bugs and glitches that accompanied that game's release. Unfortunately, releasing games with numerous bugs and glitches seems to be a trend, thanks to publishers rushing developers to get titles to the public before they're ready. Most notably, BioWare's latest title, Anthem, had a release that was so bad on consoles that some players who downloaded from the PlayStation Store actually did receive a refund from Sony (although it's not according to the company's standard refund policy).
The ACCC is cracking down on protecting video game consumers in Australia. In 2016, it won a lawsuit against Valve, the owners of Steam, over a refusal to provide refunds. Gamers are not always getting what they pay for when a game releases, and they can't depend on publishers to make things right. Although companies, such as EA, are re-thinking their release process, someone needs to protect consumers from their greed and lousy release policies.