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Square Enix Sued For $5 Million Over  Final Fantasy XI
Square Enix Sued For $5 Million Over Final Fantasy XI
June 25, 2009 | By Kris Graft

June 25, 2009 | By Kris Graft
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A San Francisco, Calif. resident filed a class action suit against Wash.-based Square Enix Inc. last week, accusing the company of deceptive advertising, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment related to the online game Final Fantasy XI.

The suit, filed June 18 in the Central District of California U.S. District Court and uncovered by Courthouse News, is seeking $5 million in damages. "[Square Enix] engaged in various levels of deceptive advertising, unfair business practices, and fraudulent concealment with respect to the online games at the point of purchase," the suit said.

The filing alleges the following against Square Enix:

"This case narrowly focuses on Defandants deceptive advertising, unfair advertising, and fraudulent concealment to conceal certain critical information about their online games. The deceptive advertising, unfair and undisclosed business practices, and concealment concern, among others:

1. Licensing of the online games software disguised as a sale
2. Monthly fees ("fees") to play online games
3. Penalties for late payment fees
4. Interest charges for late payment fees
5. Charges while the online game account is suspended
6. Termination of the right to use the online game for late payment of the fees
7. User restrictions and conditions related to the online games
8. Termination of game data for late payment of the fees


The filing estimated that the number of people to take part in the class action "will number greater than 100,000", based on the "Defendant's online game database."

The suit added, "Through false advertising, unfair and undisclosed business practices, and fraudulent concealment in connection with the advertising, marketing, promotion and sale of the online games, Defendants reaped benefits which resulted in their wrongful receipt of revenues."

[UPDATE: Clarified paragraph before allegations.]


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Comments


Tom Newman
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It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I quit playing about 3 months after the game's original launch and do remember it was a process more involved than any other subscription. As far as late fees and interest on late fees, that makes little sense, but if it's legal or not we'll have to wait and see.

Adam Bishop
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Given that #1 is standard practice for the vast majority of commercial software, I don't see on what grounds that part of the case could possibly be based, unless the intent is to show that *all* games are advertised deceptively, which would probably be pretty difficult to argue. I'm not really sure on what grounds they think they've got a case as far as #2 goes either, as it's fairly standard practice to charge in installments rather than lump sums for online games. Unless FFXI was somehow advertised as being free of monthly fees or something? A couple of the other ones are just weird as well. Of course a service provider cuts off service for late payment of fees, that's how phone, Internet, cable, electricity, etc. companies all operate.



I don't know what kind of legalities there are around the charging of late fees and interest and such, but I can't imagine a judge would side with the plaintiff on most of those charges, because the judge would in effect be ruling against the business model of the commercial software industry.

Maurício Gomes
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If that suit get sucefull we will see the end of a business style

John Woznack
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Can someone explain to me what "unjust enrichment" means, and why it's against the law for someone or some company to "enrich" themselves?



I've seen this phrase popping up in lawsuits lately, but I just can't imagine some law dictating how much "enrichment" is just, and how much is "unjust".

Jordan Lee
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@John -



The question is not how much money they make, but how they made the money. Unjust enrichment is defined by someone gaining 'enrichment' (which may be money, property, value, etc.) from another person by means that are unlawful (thus, unjust.)



Just as above, I can't tell by the article what could possibly be considered unlawful in SE's manner of advertising their MMO. I played it for years, and while their process is complicated, their billing methods are clearly established in their terms and conditions... (which you are supposed to read before playing.) It is nearly identical to the T&Cs of most MMOs out there, and their billing processes vary little.



Sounds like a case that the judge will laugh at.

steve roger
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@Andrew: The article references that list by saying, "The filing alleged that Square Enix took part in a number of practices to which the defendant objected (direct from the filing)." However, that is confusing. Because those things listed by themselves are just common business practices.



Rather, lawsuit actually states that "This case narrowly focuses on Defandants deceptive advertising, unfair advertising, and fraudulent concealment to conceal certain critical information about their online games. The deceptive advertising, unfair and undisclosed business practices, and concealment concern, among others:



1. Licensing of the online games software disguised as a sale

2. Monthly fees ("fees") to play online games

3. Penalties for late payment fees

4. Interest charges for late payment fees

5. Charges while the online game account is suspended

6. Termination of the right to use the online game for late payment of the fees

7. User restrictions and conditions related to the online games

8. Termination of game data for late payment of the fees"



However, I don't blame the writer for this lack of clarity. The complaint apparently lacks any facts that tell you why the plaintiff(s) believe that Square Enix has engaged in "deceptive advertising, unfair advertising, and fraudulent concealment to conceal certain critical information about their online games."



This complaint has just made general allegations and will likely be amended. If not, I don't see how it could withstand motion for summary judgment. We will just have to wait and see.





That Here is the link the the lawsuit which will clear things up for you: http://www.courthousenews.com/2009/06/24/SquareEnix.pdf.



@John: Unjust enrichment is just a legal theory that describes a basis for recovery in a lawsuit. Here is a paragraph that might help:



"Unjust enrichment suffers from a confusion of nomenclature.(4) Although it is referred to as "quasi-contract" and said to be based upon a "contract implied in law," it is not a contract at all. Rather, it is legal fiction described as "an obligation imposed by law to do justice even though it is clear that no promise was ever made or intended."(5) By contrast with quantum meruit, recovery for unjust enrichment is not premised upon there having been "assent" between the parties. While quantum meruit arises out of the expectation of the parties, unjust enrichment is based upon society's interest in preventing the injustice of a person's retaining a benefit for which no payment has been made to the provider. "

Sean Parton
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Thanks for the clarification, steve roger. That makes a lot more sense.



Of course, as yet another FFXI player, this really seems like a whole bunch of bollocks. My only theory is some jackass thought he could be funny by not paying because he thought "this can't be right/legal", and is now suing for the ensuing shitstorm he brought upon himself.



I've read the first half of the lawsuit in question, and it really is vague as to what leg the plaintiff Esther Leongis trying to stand on. It is people like the plaintiff that just attempt to screw people over stupid loopholes that just end up wasting everyone's time and money. What a joke.

Simon Carless
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Thanks, Steve - it's hardly much clearer, but we added that initial paragraph from the filing.

Josh Thompson
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I haven't seen points 3 and 4 in any other MMOs, but they are pretty clearly defined in the agreement. Points 1 and 2 are terribly obvious. 5 they *might* could get something, depending on the judge. 6 is obvious, 7 is too general and 8 has a tiny *maybe* but depends on the case. I don't think they have much of a case to stand on, who knows. I suspect much (or all) of it will be thrown out.

Andre Pena
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I'm sorry, but failure to understand the contract you're agreeing to does not equate to " deceptive advertising, unfair and undisclosed business practices, and concealment concern, among others".



Just because you didn't read your contract doesn't mean it is suddenly deceiving you.

Lance Rund
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It sounds to me like someone who was kicked out of the game for bad behavior (allegation 7) or not paying his subscription fees (allegations 3-6 and 8) is mad and wants to punish Square Enix. Anyone can file a lawsuit... the mere act of filing has no relationship to merit.



This will disappear into the compost pit.

Jerome Russ
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I think it further reenforces the desire of Mythic to post their Terms of Use everytime you login. If you have agreed to a contract 200 times, you couldn't win anything. All of my wishes are behind Square here... especially since I want a (better) followup! In any case, I thank the filer of this lawsuit for promoting our economy by shelling out dollars for something he has no chance of winning.

Tom Kammerer
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I am not sure if anyone is catching this but



2. Monthly fees ("fees") to play online games



Meaning fees over the original monthly "fee"



This I can see as unethical my only question is why is this being filed now? I feel square has recently done something unethical to get this filing. This game is very old now and people including me have experienced this game and all the billing and payment schedules. I agree I am upset they continue to charge you if you stop playing the game but It is up to the player to cancel the subscription. As for the interest of not paying I can see being ethical since you were so post to be playing that month of play and didn't pay for it.



I am more curious about what exactly these "fees" are and if they really did erase the account data and force the player to lose hours of invested game time having to re-roll new characters. It is all very sketchy to me and I think we all here would back Square Enix over some punk resident who was to lazy to just cancel his subscription.

Neil Akemi
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I think the person only read the FF11 ToS agreement(which doesn't mention any late fees). However, the playonline ToS clearly states that if you don't pay on time, you will be charged a late fee. Should have done your homework.



5. Charges while the online game account is suspended



Probably thought that by canceling the account any late fees would be forgotten.

Richard Gurtatowski
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"The filing estimated that the number of people to take part in the class action "will number greater than 100,000", based on the "Defendant's online game database."



How do you take part exactly?


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