New rights for UK players buying digital games

What the new consumer rights act means for digital games

The new Consumer Rights Act came into effect today, offering new protections for people who buy digital content, through clearer rights when the product is "faulty". 

Under the new law, if you buy digital content that does not work, you can demand a repair or replacement, or a refund of up to 100% if that proves impossible. According to the Act, digital content must be of "satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and as described by the seller". The law also brings in stronger rights for buyers of physical goods, including boxed games, who will now be able to demand a full refund for a faulty product for up to 30 days.

Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie, commented on the changes to the Act. 

We welcome the changes in the Consumer Rights Act. Being able to access a fair refund or replacement for faulty digital content is just as important as a physical product, and these changes will give people confidence when they are purchasing games in the growing digital market. We worked closely with the Government during their work on the Bill to make sure that they understood the innovative business models that games have pioneered, and that the new rules were appropriate for the different nature of online businesses.

For games companies wondering how the changes will affect them, we worked with Sheridans to create a Need-to-Know document, which is available here.

You can also read the submissions Ukie made throughout the creation of the new law to ensure that the games industry's view was heard:

Original consultation submission

Submission for pre-legislative scrutiny by the select committee

Submission to the draft Bill committee

What we argued for

During the writing of the new law, we focused on three core issues to ensure that the way games are sold online was recognised and protected:

  • A game cannot be considered "faulty" because of the presence of minor bugs or flaws. Players understand and expect that bugs are an unavoidable and short-lived feature of all games given the specific and unique nature of games development. In legal language, there must be no “freedom from minor defects” right in relation to games and other technologically complex digital content. The standard for when a game is "faulty" and a repair can be demanded should continue to be based on what a "reasonable consumer" would consider to be unacceptable.
  • As the majority of faults in games will be the result of flaws in the code itself, they will be universal. This means that repair attempts will usually involve universal patches or updates which minimise any effects from initial software bugs on players. Policy around repair attempts – the reasonable amount of time allowed, the number of opportunities to repair – must reflect this.  
  • There should not be a "short-term right to reject" for digital content and for games in particular. For this to work as it does for physical goods, the seller would have to be able to see clear proof that the content had been deleted by the consumer from all their devices. In closed platforms this may just be possible, but for open content, considering the ease of copying digital works, this is not workable.

We are pleased that the government agreed with us on all three of these points, ensuring that companies can continue to sell games online with confidence, while giving consumers more clarity on their rights.

Next steps - Europe

We are taking an active part in discussions in Europe on the Digital Single Market agenda, which the European Commission has made one of its highest priorities. One of the central pillars of that work is a discussion about whether European rules need updating on this same issue of consumer rights in the digital world.

We believe that, with the new rules coming into force today, the UK is leading the way. Now that these changes have happened, we are arguing forcefully in Europe that no more EU legislation is needed, as it is clearly already possible to put in place balanced rules for the digital world.

Most importantly, we are making clear that there must be no more requirements placed on UK games businesses, as they must be given time to adapt to these new rules.