Nintendo accused of illegally denying refunds on pre-orders in Europe

Nintendo has been accused of breaking European law by not allowing consumers to obtain refunds on pre-ordered games.

The company been singled out as the worst offender of seven major digital video games platforms that were looked at by the Norwegian Consumer Council in this investigation. Though it only praises two platforms, Origin and Steam, for having what it describes as “adequate systems” for refunding purchased video games.

The Council has written to Nintendo setting out its concerns. In the letter it flags up a term on Nintendo’s eShop regarding its cancelation policy for digital purchases where it informs consumers that “all sales are final”, and warns them to check that their systems meet download requirements prior to purchase.

The Council argues that a pre-ordered game cannot qualify for an exemption to Europe’s Consumer Rights Directive for digital content because the supply of content has not yet begun. The Directive is applicable across EU and EEA countries (such as Norway).

In a press release about its action the Council writes: “[Nintendo] plainly states that all purchases are final. According to the right of withdrawal laid down in the consumer rights directive, such terms are illegal.”

“The video game industry uses incentives such as exclusive in-game content or other rewards in order to encourage consumers to pre-order games. However, pre-ordering could result in paying a lot of money for a product that turns out to be a disappointment. For most digital video game platforms, there are no possibilities to get your money back after the release date,” it adds.

At the time of writing Nintendo had not responded to a request for comment.

Lots of other video game platforms do not come out of the Council’s survey covered in glory, either.

It published a report in December which criticizes other players in the space, including, Uplay, Playstation Store and Xbox Store, for a range of less-than-consumer-friendly routes for obtaining refunds, such as requiring that buyers contact customer support.

But it’s reserving its fiercest criticism for Nintendo because the company offers no option for consumers to cancel a purchase of a pre-ordered game.

The Council also suggests games fans wait until they’re entirely sure they want to buy a title before locking themselves into a pre-order.

“Consumers often face complicated systems, where they have to fill out long forms or contact customer support in order to cancel their pre-orders,” it writes. “With these hurdles in mind, we discourage consumers from pre-ordering video games, unless they are 100% sure that the game will live up to their expectations.”