Earlier this morning Kotaku reported on concerns from members of the Entertainment Consumers Association over the organization's membership renewal policies. ECA president Hal Halpin now offers his response, blaming exploiters for the majority of the issues at hand.
One of the main concerns of ECA members was the removal of the Amazon.com membership benefit, which offered 10% off of game purchases at the popular online retailer. According to Halpin, this is where the trouble began.
"Within a relatively short period of time, some of the new members found an exploit in one of our partners' promotional codes and spread the word. The partner tried to resolve the situation, during which time we removed any references to the program, but ultimately it was decided that the offer be terminated. We advised members as soon as we were aware and reassured them that we were working on additional offers with new partners."
It was around that same time period that the ECA website was updated, implementing a opt-out functionality that was never intended to go live. "We updated our website during the same time frame in a long planned for Content Management System upgrade and an inactive back-end feature became visible, which looked to give some members the option to opt-out of the association," Halpin explains. "We were alerted to the error and removed the non-functioning feature immediately. Because it was viewable and then removed, those same few members became concerned that it was a feature that had been live all along and was suddenly removed. We then attempted to explain the situation and allay their concerns."
It was these two situations in tandem that led to the ECA enforcing its original policy of requiring members to cancel their memberships via mailed letter.
"There were then concerns about the auto-renew structure of our payment system and business model related to that same function. We explained that we are working on ramping up infrastructure to become more automated going forward, but due to a small but active number of members who were repeatedly joining, leaving and re-joining the organization – in an effort to exploit our member benefits and unduly take advantage of our partners' generous offers – we would require a mailed letter, as per our membership agreement. "
Halpin goes on to suggest that the majority of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and personal financial institutions were exploiters, angered at the measures taken to thwart them, ominously pointing out how seriously banks take fraudulent fraud reports.
"Needless to say, (the letter requirement) incensed the exploiters who then contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and their personal banks to report that we attained their membership under fraudulent conditions, in effect committing fraud themselves. Upon investigating the opened investigations, the respective banks and BBB all found ECA to be soundly reputable. We understand that several of the banks have since opened fraud investigations into their customers and that they take such matters very seriously."
So in a nutshell, the ECA response to the membership matter is that the majority of official complaints have come from people trying to exploit the organizations benefits. Halpin's statement ends with a reminder of the important work the ECA does, and a thank you to the dedicated members of the organization for understanding its policies.
"Over the past few years, membership in the ECA has grown substantially, the primary reason for which is directly attributable to the important work done by the association, partnerships formed with coalitions, parallel trade associations and corporations, all eager to help defend the rights of game consumers. We have added many valuable benefits for members including discounts on games-related goods and services, purchases and rentals and a whole host of additional affinity benefits. We have several retail partners who offer significant promotions and several more, which are in the process of being finalized. It is important to note that the number of members who were/are involved in this unfortunate issue is very small and not representative of the organization as a whole. We sincerely thank the dedicated ECA members and the gaming community for their understanding and support on this matter and we look forward to continuing to grow the organization to suit the needs of the consumers."
Halpin's statement does a fine job of explaining the situation, though it might not be enough to assuage the concerns of members in good standing who've worked themselves into a fury over these issues. Looking at it in a certain light, it accuses those complaining of being exploiters, which might not go over well.
One thing is certain. Once all of this blows over, only those people who really want to be in the ECA will likely remain. Where do you stand?