German court rules Nintendo pre-order policy unfair
A German consumer group has won its legal battle with Nintendo over the latter’s pre-order policy as it pertains to its digital storefront, Nintendo eShop. The ruling concludes an extended battle between Nintendo and consumer interest groups over the publisher’s refusal to refund customers who cancel their pre-orders within seven days of a title’s launch.
Nintendo refund policies first clashed with European courts back in 2018, when the Norwegian Consumer Council slated the Nintendo eShop for having no refund options whatsoever, which the NCC believed was in violation of the European Consumer Rights Directive. The NCC stated that Nintendo would be required to offer a cancellation option on pre-orders, as the customer had no way of knowing a product’s quality until after the purchase had been made. Nintendo noted that by allowing “pre-loads” with pre-orders, the publisher had completed a sales contract and thus the sale was concluded.
In January of 2020, a German court found in favor of Nintendo’s argument, dismissing the suit and ordering the plaintiff to pay costs. The NCC, as well as the Federation of German Consumer Organizations immediately filed for appeal, which has led to this latest ruling, handed down in the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt on December 3. In accordance with the court’s wishes, Nintendo must allow for the cancellation of pre-orders right up until a title’s launch day, allowing the customer the option of changing their mind at any point before a game’s official release.
With the increasing dominance of digital entertainment sales, it has been a slow and steady trek toward ensuring that customers have the same rights for digital and online purchases as they would for buying a video game, CD, or Blu-Ray in the high street. European courts have been a key player in the solidifying of these rules, often pushing back against major publishers such as Nintendo, Valve, and Electronic Arts on topics such as refunds, microtransactions, and repairs.