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
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.
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