After warnings from the ACCC, (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) EA has agreed to change its refund policy in regards to games sold on its Origin platform.
As far as digital return policies go, EA became very progressive after it released its 'Great Game Guarantee' in 2013. In essence, the guarantee allows users to return games they have purchased and played on Origin for a full refund within 24 hours of the game's initial launch. Gamers can return purchases within the 24 hour window for a myriad of reasons, from low performance, to dissatisfaction with the story. For more extreme technical problems, there is a 72 hour return window.
The Great Game Guarantee was born in the aftermath of EA's extremely messy Sim City launch in 2013. Due to issues with the always-online aspects of the title, gamers were subject to an extremely degraded experience, up to being unable to play at all. At that time, EA was not providing refunds, and things got pretty ugly between it, the press, and gamers.
Unfortunately for EA, it seems that even their Great Game Guarantee was not enough to satisfy Australian law. In a statement addressed to the gaming powerhouse, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said,
It is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law for businesses to state that customers are not entitled to refunds under any circumstances. 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.EA's new refund policy for digital goods sold in Australia will now extend to all products purchased on its Origin platform going back to 2012. If gamers decide that anything they bought on Origin is "faulty," they will be able to seek compensation from EA via a new 1-800 number that will soon be put into place. In the mean time, gamers that are after refunds are encouraged to seek compensation via Origin's website, through normal support channels.
In regards to this development an EA representative told Kotaku,
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. 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 time-frames if anyone is not satisfied with a digitally-downloaded game from EA.While this may be a step in the right direction for consumer rights in Australia, it is unknown how cantankerous the process of obtaining a refund will end up being, or exactly what will qualify as "faulty" merchandise. What do you readers think? Do you imagine that the new return policy will be fair and accessible? Is this effort to be commended, or is it too little, too late?
Update: Minor copy corrections and Kotaku link