New UK sales laws covering the sale and purchase of online goods come into effect today, and include coverage of digital software. The Consumer Rights Bill 2013-14 introduces specific legislation to address transactions involving digital goods, including software.
Figuring out precisely what this will mean for people buying games from services like Steam and Origin in the UK is not exactly easy, but the short version is that customers in the UK actually have some rights now when it comes to this stuff.
Here’s what the law says about digital goods:
The Consumer Rights Bill sets out what rights and remedies you would have when you pay for digital content. It clarifies that digital content would have to be:
- of satisfactory quality,
- fit for purpose, and
- meet any description.
If the digital content didn’t meet these quality rights, you would be entitled to a repair or a replacement of the digital content where practical, or failing that (that is, if the repair or replacement would take an unreasonable amount of time or cannot be done without significantly inconveniencing you), you would be entitled to some money back. You would only be entitled to return the faulty digital content for an immediate refund if the digital content was in a physical item (eg it is on a disk or embedded in goods such as a digital camera).
Other digital content rights would allow the trader to update the digital content within the terms of the contract, entitle you to a refund if the trader sold you the digital content without having the right to do so, and entitle you to a repair (if possible) or limited compensation if the trader fails to use reasonable care and skill to prevent the digital content (whether free or paid for) from damaging your device or other digital content.
If I’m interpreting this correctly (and I have no legal training so … you know,) it means while customers of Steam/Origin et al wouldn’t immediately be entitled to a refund in the case of a severely buggy game, there are now routes to pursue if the game is not fixed within a “reasonable” amount of time. Now, quite what will constitute “reasonable” is probably only going to be tested when customers attempt to cite this legislation for a replacement game or partial refund, but at least it adds some sort of protection against winding up stuck with a non-functioning game.
In addition to the above, the law provides a 14 day “cooling off” period on digital purchases. As far as I can work out (again, not a legal person) this means UK customers will have a 14 day window in which to cancel a game (pre-order or otherwise) as long as they have not yet started to download the title. In other words, if you bought Sim City and heard terrible things about it before you’d started downloading, you should be able to get a refund as long as you’re within the two week window. I think.
Again, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when this legislation is put to the test against the end user license agreements (EULA) of the various digital download services. If anyone with an actual legal background is reading this, feel free to expand on or clarify anything in the comments.
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Thanks to NeoGaf for bringing this to my attention.