Friday, June 26, 2009

Class Action Against SquareEnix Targets More Than Fees

It's been on the major news sites that a class action has been levied against SquareEnix for fees associated with Final Fantasy XI, the company's MMORPG. However, there's more to it if you look at the filing posted by GamePolitics.

News sources have been quick to point out that the monthly fee is clearly stated on the Square website, as most MMORPGs with a monthly subscription plan do. Looking at the pleading, though, the main monthly fee isn't the crux of the complaint. I think the stronger complaint lays with the penalties and interest for late payments, and 'charges while the online game account is suspended,' if that means the monthly fee is continuing to toll. This case may not be about the base monthly fee at all, but rather what happens if you don't pay.

More troubling still are facts 11 i and vi, which essentially challenge the software licensing model as a whole. Fact 11i reads 'Licensing of the online games software disguised as a sale;' while count 11vi reads 'Termination of the right to use the online games for late payment of fees.' To me, this reads that they're challenging traditional software retail and MMO sales as a deceptive trade practice because buying the game doesn't actually purchase a copy of the game nor the right to play. The latter is certainly the weaker point, as I'm fairly certain the box references the required monthly subscription. Normally I wouldn't put stock in an attempt to redefine the entire software industry, especially in California where so much software is developed, but the California courts have been known to issue unusual decisions and have long favored consumer protection.

Count vii, which contests the terms of use, seems like a dead end unless the entire software licensing model is shot down by the court. The Terms of Use are an extension of the license, and if the license is upheld, then the terms of use will be. Other cases have failed to strike down either (other than with regard to things like arbitration provisions), so I doubt this will be successful.

It will certainly be interesting to see the claims in the suit fleshed out further. Based on the information available, this looks like a case of 'I bought the game, didn't pay my monthly fees, and are mad that you won't let me play and are charging me interest on the fees I owe you.'


Danny Internets said...

"Based on the information available, this looks like a case of 'I bought the game, didn't pay my monthly fees, and are mad that you won't let me play and are charging me interest on the fees I owe you.'"

MMO fees are charged before services are rendered, not afterwards. If they won't let her play then there shouldn't be anything owed. If they are charging fees and interest and not rendering the service then she has every right to be pissed, especially if those charges weren't made clear up front.

Dread Lord CyberSkull said...

I never liked the "buy" for $50 then pay a monthly fee for MMOs.

But I don't understand here, if they didn't pay, why were they allowed to play?

Duoae said...

There are two things that come to mind for myself.

1 - Cost of buying the game in the shops versus cost of playing for one month.

2 - How do you run up debt versus play time in an MMO when everything is payed for up front. I doubt any company would allow the service to continue if the money wasn't transferred straight away.

I'll leave 2 alone seens as there may be some hiterto-unknown shenanigans for working around that presumtion of "pay before you play". But 1 leaves an interesting question - if the price of the copy of the game in store is not equal to (or close enough given tax, transport and the miniscule cost of packaging) the monthly fee then what is the extra premium you are paying for?

How does a 'service' justify charging more in that case when i would only be charged a month's fee for the first month if i elected to download the game instead?

Corrderio said...

You have a free 30 day subscription to the game, every game package has a sticker on that that says "Free 30 day subscription" right on it.

So basicly your first month is free, then after that you need to pay

Sean said...

I just recently picked up this game again to get the expansions I had missed while I wasn't playing. It only cost me $12.00 for the whole collection over steam, which is less then the monthly subscription cost, and it came with a free 30 days. Mind, it was on sale for Christmas, but the regular price for the set is $20.00, which is little more than the cost of the free month it comes with.

As far as late payments go, I don't see how what she is complaining of can be possible with their service. More than once I have lost my credit card and had to get a replacement with a new number (I know, I'm an idiot). When I missed a payment for the next month's service, they merely locked my account. No late fees or interest even after several months of not paying.

Raphael said...

Only way I know you can run up debt is because SE will reactivate your account without charging you immediately for the next month that you activate (As long as your credit card comes up valid i.e. You have $1 in the account). So if you turn your account off in January w/ all debts payed, and choose to turn on in March. You play all of March without SE charging your account until April, In which they charge you for both March and April so If you even logged in for one day in April and did not have enough to cover March and April then you owe them money and your account gets cut off during April sometime. You do not get to finish April but you are still charged for it, even if you logged in for a minute. (You can log into POL viewer without being charged to deactivate your account) But the moment you touch FFXI and accept the terms you are charged that full month.