Last week, following a lengthy appeal process, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) successfully argued that Nintendo’s current eShop pre-order return policies are insufficiently flexible, and the console maker may now have to further loosen its heavily criticized digital pre-order refund rules to be consumer-friendly enough to pass legal muster in the EU.
Nintendo’s eShop pre-order cancellation policies have been under scrutiny in Europe for years. This latest skirmish saw a judge in Germany overturn a previous Nintendo court victory from last September. The VZBV consumer advocacy group argued the current policy, which only lets customers cancel pre-ordered games up to seven days before launch, isn’t fair, as folks can’t play the game to test it ahead of release. The judge agreed.
In a summary of the case posted on December 3 and translated by Nintendo Life, the VZBV explained that while Nintendo allows players to download full games after pre-ordering them, these pre-loaded games aren’t technically accessible until the release date, which doesn’t meet the legal requirements needed to be exempt from the EU’s 14-day return policy. That law states that consumers have 14 days to return or request a refund on all products purchased online or over the phone, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is on digital items such as movies and games. In that case, once the content has been downloaded, you can’t request a refund or return.
However, the VZBV didn’t agree that Nintendo’s pre-loaded games qualified for this exception, as according to the group, “Until the release date, the game is worthless for the buyers and the contract of Nintendo is not fulfilled in any way.” Now a judge has ruled in the consumer group’s favor, and according to the case summary posted by the VZBV, it appears Nintendo has accepted the ruling.
This latest tussle began in January 2020, following years of pressure from German and Norwegian consumer groups. They took Nintendo to court in Germany and alleged that the lack of any sort of pre-order refund policy was illegal. Nintendo eventually won that case but the VZBV appealed, which has now led to the group’s new victory against Nintendo this month.
It actually used to be completely impossible to cancel a digital pre-order on the eShop. The ability to refund a pre-order only came about last September, when Nintendo introduced its current 7-day pre-order cancellation policy. Multiple consumer groups in the EU remained unsatisfied, and continued to apply legal pressure against the company.
As of today, no region’s eShop will allow players to cancel pre-orders on games that are fewer than seven days away from release. However, with this new wrinkle in the ongoing legal saga, it’s possible the company will be forced to offer a more flexible and fair refund and return policy to its EU customers in the near future. And perhaps such changes will trickle down to other regions, too.