Publishers now legally obliged to refund faulty digital goods

A new set of consumer rights laws comes into effect today that give buyers the right to a full refund on any faulty digital purchase for 30 days.

This is particularly pertinent for gamers, with an increasing number of titles hitting shelves in a state many would consider to be sub-par.

The Consumer Rights Act not only cements the 30-day refund period but also clarifies the rights in regard to digital content – those rights being that digital purchases must:

  • be of satisfactory quality, based on what a reasonable person would expect, taking into account the price
  • be fit for purpose. If the consumer has a particular purpose in mind, he or she should make that clear
  • meet the expectations of the consumer

Companies will also be liable to cover the costs of removing a virus from a user’s computer should a downloaded product lead to an infection. Consumers seeking a refund or replacement must approach the retailer from whom they made the purchase.

Citizens Advice offers the following example of how this might work in practise, in this instance with a free-to-play game:

You download a free game (for example, a virtual world) and build up some virtual currency in the game through your normal game play. You then buy some additional virtual currency in order to make an in-app purchase (for example, an item for their world). The item is faulty and doesn’t appear in your virtual world.

Under the Act, as the game is free, the provider does not have to provide a remedy for any faults in the game. However, once you paid a price for some content then, if the you can show that that content is faulty (that is, does not meet the quality rights), the provider will be liable to provide a remedy. The provider is only liable for faults affecting the chargeable elements of the game.

Certified Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers have been established should any disputes between consumer and provider emerge. Also facilitated by the Act is the possibility of American-style class action lawsuits where a person can sure a company on behalf of several others.

Steam recently introduced its own no-quibble refund policy, while other services such as Origin and GoG do much the same.

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