German courts rule against companies using ‘coming soon’ marketing for preorders

    
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Making its way through the German court system right now is a case that could be of considerable importance to consumer protections, and not just in Germany.

As German website Computer Base reports (via TechPowerUp and some Google translate because my German has gotten too rusty), a Munich Regional High Court ruling in a consumer lawsuit against MediaMarkt effectively argues that vague promises like “coming soon” are off-limits for dealers of preorder items. In October, the judges ruled in favor of the consumer in a case over a Samsung Galaxy preorder; this past May, the higher regional court upheld that judgment, and an appeal to the top court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) was rebuffed.

“In the view of the judges, this information was too vague to comply with the statutory information obligation of the providers. According to this, potential customers should know before the end of the ordering process how long the delivery time will be at the maximum.”

How this ruling might ripple out to affect other countries and industries, such as the video game industry with its endless vague release dates, preorder shenanigans, and Kickstarter claims, remains to be seen.

Source: Computer Base via TechPowerUp. Thanks, Anon!
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kjempff
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kjempff

Well on one side, we don’t like when unfinished games are rushed to release (by the publisher) to meet a deadline. And software(particularly game) development is (and should be) impossible to predict accurately, unless it is a simple game. On the other hand, the whole early access and crowdfunding situation is prone to be scammy, so it is time to have some form of rules about it.

For a preorder, it would make sense to demand a (non-bogus like 2060 or earlier) delivery date, or be entitled to a refund.

For crowdfunded, my opinion is that it should not be allowed to sell ingame items that can not be delivered “soon”. Also it should be considered a donation or investment not eligible for a refund, because you are investing in an idea and the nature of an investment is that you can’t get it back if the project fails.

Early access is a greyzone I am not sure where to place. There are many devs who use early access as means to keep on development and if the early access money doesn’t cover it, they areforced to halt development..but the mney is gone, so who should cover the refund? So I am inclined to say if you the customer buys something early access, you should realize you are only getting what is available at the time of purchase. Also, with early access, it should not be allowed to sell ingame items not instantly available at purchase.

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xanadox

So you can’t use the ‘coming soon’ message to scam people. Is that new in Germany?
Like selling fifa 19 for 20 euros and delivering it soon, let’s say nov 2019.

It’s that a global issue?

It should be ok as long as you give back the money for the ones that have preordered and did not get the product in time. (read the Techpowerup news)

And if they say ‘soon’, then you can have your money back every time.

Ok for everybody, but SC.

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draugris

If you want me to translate something, just give me a notice. I am a native German speaker.

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Robert Mann

Most likely the result will be excessively long times and releases before that, given that companies will look at the language of the judges (and reasoning documents) and be like “This is coming before 2055, most likely very soon.” Maximum delivery date established, everything is still just as vague, good job solving nothing yet.

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Totes McGoats

Serious question about how this works – can it be gotten around with release windows?

Otherwise it seems like “this game will come out exactly on December 31, 2019” being ok but “this game will come out on December 31, 2019 unless earlier” being not ok.

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Rheem Octuris

If I’m reading this right they have to state the absolute latest a product will be delivered on.
In other words if a company just not put a date anymore, they have to say “by the end of the year” or some such that’s quantifiable and not subjective. Soon for me may mean next month but someone else might consider that next year.
In this case companies will have to make a firm commitment to getting a product out a door but it doesn’t have to be that exact date. They can say “we expect it to shit around two and a half years from now, but a maximum of five” and that way the consumer has that information available before they order.

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Peregrine Falcon

If the EU keeps this up American companies are just going to stop doing business there altogether.

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thirtymil

If they can afford to, certainly. But for all big companies, it’s all just a matter of profit versus cost. I don’t think taking ‘coming soon’ off the adverts will cost them a lot, the same as disabling lockboxes in some games for Belgium cost much. I’m all for having a bit more respect for your customers, however – so if all the hassle engenders a bit more of that, great.

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Peregrine Falcon

American companies can just sell stuff on Steam. As long as they don’t have a physical presence in the EU they aren’t subject to its laws.

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thirtymil

Steam will be subject to those laws though (just as it is to Australia’s laws and got fined there) and that by default means companies that sell via Steam will also, as Valve will make sure their agreements reflect those laws.

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Randy Savage

Germans policing language? Does that make anyone else nervous or am I the only one who watched the History Channel back when it was still about history?

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Bruno Brito

Nah, it doesn’t. Germany is mostly different nowadays.

miol
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miol

Be rather aware of Austrians, who didn’t do their homework, but rather hide behind false victimhood!

Unlike Germany, dealing with its horrifying past, taking responsibility and still keeping the memory alive, as you can see in many memorials and how serious history is teached in school!

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Randy Savage

Authoritarianism isn’t very different no matter what direction on the political spectrum you take to get there.

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Brother Maynard

Nah, don’t bother with History Channel, it’s THE tabloid of the documentary channels. I’m surprised they have not yet managed to sneak in a page 3 girl in some way…

As for Germany, they have first hand experience with the effects that language and speech may have on masses. Following the intense denazification period, Germany continued to take this very seriously and to this day there are strong rules against the use of nazi symbols and speech – that’s why some games are banned in the country (like the famous example of Wolfenstein 3D).

So yes, they are policing language in specific and well-justified cases, but that does not have much to do with consumer law – which is what this article is about – and the way business practices sometimes tend to cross into the exploitation territory.

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draugris

Oh boi, will i ever experience in the future that not anything regarding Germany will be compared to the times of the second ww. The war is over since 1945, get over it. I mean honestly this is like comparing the US anytime to the time they imported slaves. It makes no sense…

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Soy

SWTOR Guild Ships

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I really wish early access would go away altogether. If it must exist, it should go back to the olden days when it meant one or two weeks early entry into a game with a known release date.

These days, EA simply means Give Us Money Because We Put Up a Steam Page.

For every Warframe there is 1,000 other titles that fade into vaporware.

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Simon

This seems to be an universal thing though and not only related to games. As for the early access thing, I dislike that it’s basically a paid alpha/beta test and the developers aren’t done with the full game for a long time. Then we have something like ARK: Survival Evolved where they as far as I know released paid DLC before even getting the game out of early access.
Then there’s paying to get a few days early access, I’m honestly not a fan of that either. If they are ready enough to let people play it days earlier, then they are likely ready to let everybody play it earlier. They merely use it to gain some more extra money.

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Akagi

Early Access is another wording for game still being in early development. Except that most games that ship under this monicker aren’t in their early stage of development and its an exploit of the feature just to use it as an excuse when dissatisfied players complain about the game.

Black Squad and Warframe are in Early Access, but are perfectly playable.

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Siphaed

Ever seen the movie Branded? It was bombed hard by critics, but because of its anti-capitalism message instead of an overall focused “fun monster movie”. Point is, advertisement manipulation in Russia got so out of control and became such a public outcry that by the end of the movie it was banned entirely. The movie shows a girl waking up from a coma and walking into the streets of Moscow where there was just buildings and architecture. Where signs once were, was now skies clear of billboards.

What a good ending.

Although honestly John Carpenter’s They Live! was a more sci-fi take on mass advertisement’s control on consumers. But instead of a boardroom finding ways to manipulate massive consumer groups -Branded-, They Live! had aliens putting subliminal messages in the background of everything.

My point? Yay Germany! Trying to be anti-control and manipulation of consumers while protecting individual rights…… wait, WTF?! It’s 2018 and Germany is being cheered for this while USofA is doing the opposite. Farnsworth’s “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore” so much matches.

miol
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miol

São Paulo already banned billboards in 2007, even though the city also initially did paint over murals by street artists, it added a registration for street art to the “clean city” law! Making it even more of a Mekka for them!

They removed 15,000 billboards and more than 1,600 signs and 1,300 towering metal panels in their 12 mio. city!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cidade_Limpa
https://web.archive.org/web/20110604072708/http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=ar4OrAXUisPQ&refer=latin_america