The Nintendo pre-order policy is simply this: once you pre-order a game via the Nintendo eShop, you can't cancel it. The problem, however, is that this may very well be against consumer protection laws in Norway and the European Union.
Everything began when Norwegian publication PressFire and Norway's Consumer Rights Council began testing the Nintendo eShop for compliance with European law as reported in this submission on the /r/NintendoSwitch subreddit.
Regrettably, they found that the Nintendo pre-order policy does not allow you to cancel pre-orders, something that the government believes is a violation of consumer protection laws. Nintendo, naturally, disagrees with this assertion, and now the trial to decide the legality of this policy has begun in Europe.
It seems pretty clear cut, but the matter will likely be up for some debate going by what is and is not qualifying for the 14-day "cooling off" period for orders in European law:
In the EU (In this case, the 28 EU member states + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) you have the right to return purchases made online or through other types of distance selling, such as by phone, mail order or from a door-to-door salesperson, within 14 days for a full refund. You can do so for any reason – even if you simply changed your mind.
The 14-day cooling off period does not apply to all purchases. Some of the exemptions are:
- plane and train tickets, as well as concert tickets, hotel bookings, car rental reservations and catering services for specific dates
- goods and drinks delivered to you by regular delivery – for example delivery by a milkman
- goods made to order or clearly personalised – such as a tailor-made suit
- sealed audio, video or computer software, such as DVDs, which you have unsealed upon receipt
- online digital content, if you have already started downloading or streaming it and you agreed that you would lose your right of withdrawal by starting the performance
- goods bought from a private individual rather than a company/trader
- urgent repairs and maintenance contracts – if you call a plumber to repair a leaking shower, you can't cancel the work once you have agreed on the price of the service
Please note that this list is not exhaustive.
As pre-orders are rarely downloaded before launch, it would seem that they would qualify for refunds under the EU scheme. Even so, they may or may not qualify depending on the specifics of the law and how its interpreted by the courts, especially since the list is noted to not be exhaustive.
Nintendo Pre-Order Policy Could Be Ruled Illegal by Christmas
Legal matters rarely move quickly, but PressFire reports that a judgement on the Nintendo Pre-Order policy could arrive as early as Christmas 2019. Failing that, it would reasonably be expected to arrive sometime in early 2020.
Regrettably, the hearings on this matter are closed to the public and the press, so we're not likely to hear any more on the subject until the trial is over or something leaks. This seems to be a pretty important legal grey area in the EU (and, more broadly, the EEC), and hopefully, we'll soon get a definitive answer on the practice.
What do you think of the Nintendo pre-order policy? Do you think you should be able to refund digital pre-orders? Let us know in the comments below!