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GameStop settles class action suit over deceptive used game practices
GameStop settles class action suit over deceptive used game practices
April 10, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

April 10, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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    10 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



GameStop has settled a class action lawsuit brought against the retailer for allegedly engaging in "deceptive and misleading practices" with its used game sales and paid downloadable content.

The suit was filed two years ago after California resident James Collins accused the company of selling used copies of games that require users to purchase downloadable content for features, even though the packaging for those games advertise that content as free.

A number of games include one-time-use codes for consumers to download free content, but they require users to purchase that same content if the code has been redeemed, as is the case for many used copies of games.

"As a result of GameStop's deceptive and misleading practices, consumers who purchase used games from GameStop unknowingly find that they must pay an additional fee to access the full game they thought they purchased," said Collins in his original complaint.

As part of the settlement, for the next two years, GameStop must post online warnings and in-store signs (in California, where the lawsuit was filed) next to used games to remind consumers that certain downloadable content may require an additional purchase.

Consumers in California will also be able to recover the $15 they might have paid for downloadable content -- if they've purchased a qualifying used game and are enrolled in GameStop's PowerUp Rewards program, they'll receive a $10 check and a $5 coupon. Non-PowerUp Rewards members can receive a $5 check and a $10 coupon.

While this settlement only applies to California customers, the law firm behind this class action lawsuit, Baron & Budd, is investigating similar GameStop practices in other states. It's inviting consumers from other states who have experienced the same issue to contact the firm for a free legal consultation.


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Comments


Ryan Marshall
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Honestly, I blame the developers more than GameStop. I've only bought a handful of used games from there in the last year, but they always made sure to tell me that I might have to pay more for an online pass if the included code had already been used (which it generally hadn't).

This sort of thing is right up there with content ratings; it should be clear to anyone who actually reads the box, but I guess it could potentially be construed as confusing (misleading would be a stretch) to someone who didn't know much about games (say, a relative seeking to purchase a gift, though such cases rarely involve used purchases anyway).

Evan Combs
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I agree, this shouldn't be a Gamestop thing, but a publisher/developer thing.

Ryan Marshall
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According to a number of first-hand accounts, there have been some unscrupulous GameStop employees who promote used games and neglect to mention the presence of online codes that may have been used.

I guess it's a case of a few bad eggs bringing down the whole company, so hopefully this will at least lead to a change in how they are trained.

Josh ua
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Or the publisher/developer could stop pissing off their customer with anti-consumer policies and confusing access gates to content and drop online passes/1st purchase DLC.

Remember when you could buy a game and know you where getting the full story and content. Those were the days before the nickel and dime crap this industry has turned into.

Ryan Marshall
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Eh, I'm not so certain about that. I think a lot of game content just wouldn't get made if they couldn't justify the expenses by being able to charge extra for it, and it doesn't make my core game any less enjoyable (to me) for not having an extra few hours of un-related content.

I don't buy DLC, but I buy games that have DLC. So far, I've been fairly happy with those purchases, even when I felt that the game was dragging on a bit and I was looking forward to it ending. I wouldn't have really appreciated having that extra bit of more-challenging content at the end, but I certainly won't begrudge anyone who was loving the game of their opportunity to support that extra development.

james sadler
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Really? The consumer didn't read the packaging, or understand they were buying a USED game so its Gamestop's fault?

Glenn Sturgeon
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I agree its the consumers responsibility to have a clue about what they are buying.
The way i see it is this all could have been avoided if GS had worked a bit with publishers to have the codes needed for all content involved, passing on the cost to the consumer.

Jason Hu
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It is the gamer's responsibility to carefully read the content on the used game which may or may not be redeemed. Exclusive unlocks usually come on the purchase receipt if offered by Gamestop. In which case a customer who buys it used won't know about the DLC when considering a purchase. In other cases where it is not exclusively offered content by Gamestop, it will be printed on the cover of the box. If the game is used, the buyer should assume it is likely the code has been redeemed by the previous owner and it will not work if redeemed a second time by another user.

One game comes to mind from my personal experience: Mafia 2 offered console exclusive content that was printed on the case of the game.

Conversely the game: Mass Effect 3 which had the N7 Warfare gear (Gamestop exclusive) which is stated nowhere on the case, but the unlock code printed on my receipt of purchase.

Although I have to say Gamestop should have seen this coming and prepared to make that clear to customers buying used games. And could have even offered to re-print a new exclusive unlock code for the used game at a reasonable price.

Julian Pritchard
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It is excellent to see this happen. Gamespot needs to be held responsible for all the misleads of the second hand sales.

With regards to activation codes that come with the purchase of the game: it is completely correct for the publisher to advertise to their customers that this content is free with the purchase of the game. The publishers customers are the people who buy games first hand. People who buy games second hand are customers of gamestop, and no one else. The developers who worked extremely hard to make that game do not see a cent from the sales of second hand games. The exception is aforementioned activation codes.

Frank Gilson
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DLC and other kinds of follow-on content are in part the result of used game sales and policies which don't directly compensate publishers or developers. Don't ever think that they're the villain in this.


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