Ask LH: Can I Score A Refund For Watch Dogs?

Ask LH: Can I Score A Refund For Watch Dogs?

Dear Lifehacker, Recently I bought Watch Dogs for my PC via Steam. I checked the requirements prior to purchase and knew my machine was capable of running it on at least ‘low’ settings. When I tried to play the game, it crashed four times.

The first attempt gave me a blue screen (a literal solid blue screen with no error messages — I had to hard-restart my PC). I’ve also experienced two instances where the game has crashed my graphics driver, causing the game to exit suddenly. According to Steam’s subscriber agreement, you can’t get refunds once you’ve purchased, except where it’s a pre-purchase. Can Steam do that, and shouldn’t I be entitled to a refund under consumer law, as the game is so broken I can barely play it? Thanks, Steaming Mad

Dear SM,

The real reason you should be asking for a refund is false advertising — the game doesn’t contain a single instance of dog watching! What a rort! But anyway.

Steam states quite clearly on its website that it does not offer refunds or exchanges on games. However, this is a flimsy roadblock at best. Companies are free to write whatever they like in their terms and conditions, but that doesn’t put them above Australian consumer law.

As we have noted in the past, a commercial product must be fit for purpose. If your PC’s specifications were included in the minimum requirements list, it’s not unreasonable to expect compensation if the game doesn’t work. Unfortunately, getting a company to actually honour your statutory rights isn’t always easy; especially when they’re based overseas like Steam.

Even if they treat your claim seriously, you’ll still need to demonstrate that the fault lies with their product rather than your hardware. This is trickier than it sounds. (i.e. — Is your PC correctly configured? Are your components reasonably new and of decent quality? Do you have any software installed that could be causing conflicts?) There’s a pretty big margin for user error here — and the onus is on you to prove your system isn’t causing the problem.

With all that said, it can’t hurt to try. Since you purchased the game through Steam, that’s the channel you need to use to ask for your money back. Head to Steam’s support page and explain your issue. When you compose the initial email, stay courteous and on-point — but also explain why the “no refunds” policy doesn’t apply.

Make them realise that you’re requesting a refund for a faulty product, which you are entitled to do under Australian consumer law. This is completely different to requesting a refund for personal reasons, which is the only circumstance in which this policy should be enforced.

You may need to be persistent to get a refund, but as the old adage goes, the squeaky wheel usually gets the grease. If they refuse to play ball, follow up with the relevant consumer affairs body in your state; but only as a last resort.

If any Steam customers have experience or advice of their own to share in this area, please let SM know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Companies are free to write whatever they like in their terms and conditions, but that doesn’t put them above Australian consumer law.

    While that doesn’t put them above the ACL, being based outside of Australia certainly does.

    • Having an Australia online store front, prices and local servers does not.

      • They don’t have a local company though. Who would consumer affairs take to court if it came to that?

      • Wasn’t aware valve had an Australian office, if you’re aware of one please let me know where it is. The steam servers in Australia are content mirrors hosted in Australia by third parties e.g. Telstra, iiNet etc. Plus – Just because you export something from the USA to Australia like valve does, doesn’t mean you’re trading in Australia.

        • Do they charge GST? If so then they are trading in Australia, as an Australian company and are bound by ACLs.

        • Actually if they supply to Australian consumers the ACL applies. Even if they are based overseas.

          They have servers (mirrors) here for content and local pricing. They supply and sell to Australia.

          The overseas nature only applies if you buy on a website not specifically targeted at Australia.

          This doesn’t mean you’ll not have difficulties, but the ACL still does apply. Whether they ignore it or not.

          Otherwise no online retailer in Australia would be ‘based’ in Australia. As it’d be a massive loophole to be selling products online to Australians where if your website or business was located overseas you didn’t have to apply to the local laws. Otherwise some backwater third world country with no consumer protection laws would become the host of a lot of web stores.

    • This is irrelevant. They’re selling products and services to Australian customers. As other commenters have pointed out, they also have offices in Australia.

      I’ve had issues with Steam in the past. I’ve requested refunds for broken games before (very buggy, unplayable) which falls under the acceptable quality and faulty product clauses of the ACL. Their excuse was that this law doesn’t apply to digital downloads (the balls on them, of course it does) and I eventually referred the case to the ACCC. I never got the money back but there is an ongoing investigation into their business practices.

  • I’d suggest the problem lies with their computer, rather than the game itself. The game is running fine on millions of computers around the world, if it isn’t running fine on your computer that a problem with your computer.

    What you’ve got really is a support issue. You need to obtain support for software you’ve purchased to get it working on your computer. The software is a copy of the same software sold to many other people, so we know the software does work, it’s just not working on this computer.

    • This. When I first bough Bastion on Steam, I could not get the darn game to work. No amount of playing with drivers, DxDiag or various Windows settings would stop the game from crashing immediately after I launched it. I couldn’t be bothered going through a support process at the time so I just shelved the game until I got a new PC. Lo and behold, Bastion worked fine on the new PC.

    • Exactly. All I heard when I read this post was:

      “dear lifehacker,
      I tried running a new graphically intense game on my potato. It didn’t work well.
      Can I get my money back? “

  • I had similar issues (3 crashes during the opening cutscene and three crashes during the opening mission) and updating my graphics card drivers fixed the problem. I had AMD Catalyst Control Center installed, but it wasn’t updating my drivers at all (I was a whole version behind). Since updating by re-downloading the driver (the 14.6 beta driver, specifically) I can now play the game without cars jerking about and without crashes (just one so far)

  • I don’t understand when people always blame something else before checking if they are at fault. It’s most likely and 9 times out of 10 his pc just needs a driver update. If millions of other people who got the game were experiencing the same thing then yeah there is a issue with the software that the company would need to address.

    • SM may have updated their drivers but is still having problems. The question is still a valid one, and now hopefully they have an avenue to pursue a refund if it is in fact an “unsolvable” problem with their PC / game.

  • This is something I’ve often wondered: If I purchase a DVD in order to be entertained, but the content is so awful that I just can’t stand to watch the movie (Hypothetically here), can I return it for a refund on the grounds that it was not suitable for the purpose it was purchased? I have only ever walked out on one movie, but the cinema refunded my ticket when I asked.

    • I’d say not – the “purpose” of the DVD isn’t technically to entertain you, it’s to enable you to view the film that’s encoded on it. If it turns out to be a DVD of a different movie, or if it’s physically unplayable, you can return it, but your enjoyment of the content has no bearing on whether or not it’s capable of doing what it promises it’ll do.

  • Maybe the game isn’t about observing canines, but rather about dogs that like to wear time pieces?

  • Valve are not trading in Australia. Your rights are based on where the company is based. Same as if you buy electronic goods from overseas. Your legal claims to warranty are based on the laws in that country, not in Australia

    • They’re still selling goods to people in Australia and as such, are still required to comply with our laws. If they didn’t, you could set up a company in a country where gun laws are lax and just sell people in Australia all the weapons they like.

      Besides, if they’re in the US, SM could just complain to the BBB (Better Business Bureau — the US version of the ACCC) and get something done.

      • There’s nothing illegal with people overseas selling guns to Australians – unless there are laws in that country that outlaw exports. However it is illegal for Australians to buy them – the person buying them is the one committing the crime, not the store selling them.

        If you buy goods from overseas, you are complying with the laws in the country you are buying from, not here. That’s why prices in the US are much cheaper than Europe and Australia – warranty laws are a lot less consumer friendly. So companies don’t need to add the additional costs to their prices, like they do here and in Europe.

  • I had an issue with GRID 2
    still, to this day, it doesn’t work, never has.

    massive threads on the codemasters forum, steam forum and all.

    i contacted codemasters, and after figuring out it was their game,, they no longer wanted to help me, and steam wasn’t much of help either.

    before you say it is my computer, it is an issue with Nvidia graphics cars (namely 660ti)
    it SHOULD be able to run it, but always crashes, i tried the following also:
    formatted machine, latest drivers and steam and grid 2, f1 2012 and a couple of other games.
    installed my 660ti – crashed
    got a brand new 660ti from work – crashed
    got my old ati 4870 – worked
    got my old at 4890 – worked
    tested a mates 7 series nvidia and it worked.

    and, not only grid 2, but f1 2012 also… same result on their games…

    but, no, nobody helped me

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