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The Past, Present, And Future of GameStop's California Used Games Settlement

How one customer's purchase of Dragon Age: Origins forced GameStop's hand, and whether it means anything for used games going forward.

Unless an unexpected hiccup occurs, for the next two years, GameStop locations in California will have to better inform customers about downloadable content tied to new games when they purchase used, and, over the next several months, must pay $15 to anyone who bought a used game believing everything on the box was on the disc.

James Collins is the one who got the ball rolling on this.

It’s unlikely Collins is the only person who has dreamed of suing GameStop, but on March 23, 2010, Collins made the step that most people don’t: he lawyered up and filed a class action lawsuit against the Texas-based retailer.

“GameStop tricks consumers into paying more for a used game than they would if they purchased the same game and content new,” reads the original class action filing from late March.

Dragon Age: Origins is one of many games that now ship with content free only if the game's new.

Collins purchased a used copy of Dragon Age: Origins for $54.99, roughly $5 less than what it would have cost to purchase it brand-new, from a GameStop in Hayward, California on January 6. The game’s box promises free downloadable content for buying the game, when in reality, it’s only free if you’re purchasing a new copy with an unused redemption code found inside. Collins claimed to have no knowledge of this, and played the game until “on or around” January 19, when he returned to GameStop to complain about having to pay more money to access said additional content.

The DLC would cost Collins $15, meaning he only saved $5 from the used game purchase--a $10 loss. Since it was more then seven days, per GameStop policy, GameStop refused his return.

So he filed a lawsuit.

Matthew Proctor and Danoby Ortiz have a similar story. For Proctor, the game was The Saboteur. For Ortiz, it was Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition. Since the lawsuits were filed as class actions, meaning the outcome can benefit more than just the individuals who filed the claim, the lawsuits were combined.

The first details on the settlement were announced in a press release last week by law firm Baron & Budd.

GameStop has not responded to my requests for comment on the settlement.

What happened is a preliminary ruling by the courts on the settlement agreement. There will not be a trial, though a trial was the original goal of Collins’ lawsuit. There’s an unlikely chance the settlement dies, as there is a period between now and September 17 for objection from outside parties. Those parties do not include GameStop, who has already agreed to the terms of the settlement.

If you purchased a used game from GameStop between March 23, 2006 and April 9, 2012, you’re affected.

And because it’s a settlement, GameStop doesn’t have to admit it did anything wrong.

“Neither this Agreement, nor any exhibit or document referenced herein nor any act performed or document executed pursuant to this Settlement Agreement [...] shall be construed as, or deemed to be evidence of, an admission or concession by GameStop.”

What happens next? For starters, there’s a website: www.gamestopsettlement.com.

Since the preliminary approval, GameStop has handed over applicable customer information to the claims administrator handling the case. The aforementioned website will (soon) have claims forms, but if GameStop has your details, that's coming via mail or email. GameStop has information for customers who have used its PowerUp program, but if you aren’t part of that program, you can still get your money. That’s where it gets a little weird.

For example, the used games affected by the lawsuit will not be disclosed. Games affected, according to the law firm, include ones “that offered free downloadable content to consumers of a new copy that was not available without additional payment to people who purchased a used copy of the game.” If your game fits that, you're good.

Used games have and probably will remain a common scapegoat for the industry's problems.

The other strange thing? Consumers can, should they chose to then be legally liable, make claims on purchases that may or may not have happened. You only have to enter the game name, date of purchase, location of purchase and whether the extra content would have been available through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.

“Option Two Claim: Settlement Class members may elect to receive a $5 payment and a $10 Store Credit. Settlement Class members who elect to make an Option Two Claim shall not be required to provide proof of purchase, nor shall it be required that GameStop verify their purchase through GameStop’s own records.”

To protect against fraud, the claim form underscores you’re making statements under penalty of perjury.

“With the understanding that many people do not save receipts from relatively small consumer purchases like video games, and that not everyone who may have purchased a qualifying used game is a member of GameStop’s PowerUp rewards program," the law firm told me in a statement, "the parties came up with Option 2 as a way for those people to be compensated.

That said, you can’t rack up hundreds of dollars in claims. Even if you bought dozens of used games, it only amounts to one payout.

Going option two entitles you to $5 in real-world money and $10 in GameStop credit towards used products. If you provide a PowerUp number, they can verify the purchase and offer $10 in real-world money and just $5 in GameStop credit. Again, it's only a single payout, and even in the event that consumers are actively defrauding GameStop, keep this in mind: most of the money being paid out will probably go right back to GameStop.

Claims must be postmarked by July 19, and the claim forms are below. Do not use these claim forms, as they are not final. The correct claim forms will eventually be available on the website.

In addition to the pseudo refunds, GameStop stores in California must also have “shelf takers” (you know, this stuff) near used games, warning consumers about possible additional purchases related to used games, counter mats that include similar warnings, and a disclaimer on GameStop’s official website. All of this will last for two years.

Having established a legal framework, the law firm is already seeking individuals with similar stories in states other than California, but lawyer Andrew Ehmke of Texas-based Haynes and Boone is hesitant to read too much into it.

“That seems unlikely,” Ehmke told me. “What might happen, though, is that GameStop might be sued in a handful of the larger states. On the flip side, GameStop could also be considering options to minimize the risk from these future lawsuits by preemptively providing a similar settlement offer to any of its customers, but that’s speculation on my part.”

One scenario could involve GameStop getting ahead of the problem, rather than untangling a series of legal battles.

“I would not be surprised to see GameStop adjust its marketing, advertising and pricing across the country for used games that contain the first-time buyer one-time use codes,” said Ehmke. “It may be too much of an administrative hassle to have different pricing and advertising in different states.”

Want to read more? Get your legal on.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
152 Comments
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Posted by Aetheldod

You crazy americans you

Posted by Bunny_Fire

Buyer beware i guess ... but still to make sure you have good customer relations it is conmen sense to inform them what they are buying is not a new product.

Edited by Willtron

@YetiAntics said:

So let me get this straight. Some idiot thought he could get the DLC that gets packed into a new game by buying it used, throwing a fit, sued Gamestop, and won due to his stupidity?

Jesus christ, I know better than to expect a pack-in DLC code from a USED game.

Apology in advance for having sympathy for the devil (Gamestop) here. But this dude must have lacked some serious common sense.

Now if this were a "NEW" game however, and one of these so called gutted copies had no DLC code given to him, then I would completely understand the lawsuit.

This. So hard.

I mean, I worked at EB Games for a bit (Canadian Gamestop) and we made sure people knew what new and used meant in relation to DLC. Every god-damned EA Sports game, we had to explain Online Passes. So, I think, in a way Gamestop could have obviously relayed things better. But still, to go out and sue someone over this? And to just... not have the--what I perceive to be--common sense to realize used games most likely won't have the DLC? Mind-blowing.

Posted by DukesT3

Just buy used games on ebay or craigslist.

Posted by Makoto_Mizuhara_Sakamoto

@Dom said:

hmm... isn't it common sense so think that the previous owner used the DLC code, where's the surprise?

This.

Posted by Gregalor

@Pr1mus said:

@GioVANNI said:

It's amazing what reading the article can do.

"It’s unlikely Collins is the only person who has dreamed of suing GameStop, but on March 23, 2010, Collins made the step that most people don’t: he lawyered up and filed a class action lawsuit against the Texas-based retailer."

Yes, yes, you guys got me real good for getting a single digit of a date wrong that was mentioned at the beginning of an article. The logical conclusion is that I didn't even read the article! :rolleyes:

Posted by FoxMulder

Someone sued over the DLC not being in the Saboteur??? All the DLC contained was that every woman in ONE bar in the game were topless...THATS IT!! I can't believe they even sold it as DLC...

Posted by benji_18

Surprising something like this hasn't happened in the UK yet, not to my knowledge anyhow The underhand jacking of prices to suit businesses sucks, the worst part is many times when a new release was traded in, it was staff who pillaged it of its content not the original owner. Great if you work there, sucks if you don't!

Posted by tourgen

@LordAndrew said:

I look forward to when the time comes that the codes can't be used at all, even in new copies, because the publisher has shut down the servers. More lawsuits?

yeah hopefully. theyll have to challenge the EULA in court.

Posted by BawlZINmotion

I have been drinking most of the afternoon, so maybe I missed something, but wouldn't the clarification on the packaging of a game in question be the responsibility of the IP's owner? In this case, Electronic Arts. And if the package for Dragon Age: Origins stated said "free" DLC was available only to new copies, would that not be the responsibility of the consumer? Either way, I'm sort of confused how a court could rule this as the fault of Gamestop.

I know people love to hate on both Gamestop and Electronic Arts, but who is the real winner here? Not the consumer. All this does is make used game sales more of a liability than before, which directly benefits the publishers of video games in general. If I was a publisher I would have blown my load all over the screen by now. Total. Fucking. Win.

My description of people:

"People are like sheep. They eat, they shit, and they stand around waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Every once in awhile a shepherd comes along to shave all their wool and cash in."

Posted by oasisbeyond

I notinced the used games there have white stickers?

Over here they are Yellow to show they are used.

Actually now new = green or something like that.

Gametop / ebgames sucks, they will fall eventually. Back in the day they were good with used games weren't 80% of their business, now all I see is used, they don't order many copies of a game you want new. But thanks for helping me find gems like ico back in the day for cheap... Good times. Now Futureshop is way cheaper for games and used ones too, plus you get everything in the disk and good to great conditions.

Posted by MormonWarrior

Anybody believe he really didn't know any better? I mean, sure, it's possible, but really. This isn't a new occurrence. It's been around for a few years.

Posted by Toug

@FoxMulder said:

Someone sued over the DLC not being in the Saboteur??? All the DLC contained was that every woman in ONE bar in the game were topless...THATS IT!! I can't believe they even sold it as DLC...

That information makes this story even better.

Posted by Shaanyboi

@YetiAntics said:

So let me get this straight. Some idiot thought he could get the DLC that gets packed into a new game by buying it used, throwing a fit, sued Gamestop, and won due to his stupidity?

Jesus christ, I know better than to expect a pack-in DLC code from a USED game.

Apology in advance for having sympathy for the devil (Gamestop) here. But this dude must have lacked some serious common sense.

Now if this were a "NEW" game however, and one of these so called gutted copies had no DLC code given to him, then I would completely understand the lawsuit.

this

Posted by BD_Mr_Bubbles

@Shaanyboi said:

@YetiAntics said:

So let me get this straight. Some idiot thought he could get the DLC that gets packed into a new game by buying it used, throwing a fit, sued Gamestop, and won due to his stupidity?

Jesus christ, I know better than to expect a pack-in DLC code from a USED game.

Apology in advance for having sympathy for the devil (Gamestop) here. But this dude must have lacked some serious common sense.

Now if this were a "NEW" game however, and one of these so called gutted copies had no DLC code given to him, then I would completely understand the lawsuit.

this

Posted by 1337W422102

>gamestop

Posted by DG991

Just saying.... Downloading the game illegally will provide you access to all the ingame content hassle free. Buying it used... nope.

Posted by Hurricrane

Now the next step is to get them to stop selling an open new game that they put on the shelf at full fucking price.

Posted by confideration

I got fooled with Battlefield Bad Company 2 and returned to the store to process my refund. Luckily it was the next day so they had to grant it but not before I had to get very aggro on the manager who tried to give me a hard time about it. That's the last time I purchased a game from that chain.

Posted by AgentOHarah

@YetiAntics said:

So let me get this straight. Some idiot thought he could get the DLC that gets packed into a new game by buying it used, throwing a fit, sued Gamestop, and won due to his stupidity?

Hot coffee is hot

Posted by IBeDanYo

I'd much rather see the game publishers sued for attempting to devalue our game purchases, and thus, trying to take away our right to sell or rent out our own property to others with this online pass foolishness.

But I don't care much for Gamestop either, and their constant pre-order nagging/used game rip-offs. So I'll go ahead and be happy about this.

Edited by Jfig

I like GameStop, maybe I am the only one. Buying a used game and expecting free dlc is stupid, he should but it new. I do like how I can go there and find throw back games for 5 10 bux, but I dont buy new games from there.

Posted by Powers

Using the hot coffee case as an example of a frivolous lawsuit is ridiculous. The lady who was burned had a legitimate case that McDonald's had heated her coffee to a dangerous temperature. She wasn't driving when it spilled, and McDonalds wouldn't cough up more than $800 to cover her $20000 in medical and other expenses. AND the court found she was partly to blame and reduced the damages.

For this gamestop case...yeah it's kinda frivolous!

Posted by kindgineer

Bravo.

Edited by l4wd0g

Maybe I'm a cynical asshole, but it seems like everyone one who participates gets $15 (to spend on more used games). The publisher and developer are getting screwed twice.

Posted by SethPhotopoulos

@Gregalor said:

@Pr1mus said:

@GioVANNI said:

It's amazing what reading the article can do.

"It’s unlikely Collins is the only person who has dreamed of suing GameStop, but on March 23, 2010, Collins made the step that most people don’t: he lawyered up and filed a class action lawsuit against the Texas-based retailer."

Yes, yes, you guys got me real good for getting a single digit of a date wrong that was mentioned at the beginning of an article. The logical conclusion is that I didn't even read the article! :rolleyes:

It's a big mistake since you were railing against people for paying something they didn't. Especially in 2012 you can get DA:O Ultimate edition for $17.99 used at gamestop, $19.99 new. Still more than a Steam sale but it is a Steam sale.

The real crime here is that he paid $55 for a two-year-old used game, regardless of what it included. That's crazy.
The Ultimate Edition (including all DLC) has been on sale on Steam for $10 or less numerous times over the last couple of years. The disparity between PC pricing and console pricing continues to amaze me.
And you know what? My $10 went to Bioware. NONE of James Collins' $55 did. Tell me again how Steam sales are bad for the industry. Nothing compares to sucker customers like this guy.

Also does the 360 version not come with a disc full of DLC. When I got it on the PS3 all I had to do was put the disc in and install the content that way. No code was needed.

Posted by chilipeppersman

and this is why i buy my games on amazon. gamestop can suck it

Posted by Mike76x

People buy games for $5 less from Gamestop so they can return them if they want, I don't know of any other physical store that allows returns of videogames.

Some people use Gamestop for free rentals, buy a game play it for 6 days return it/exchange it to a different location, and repeat.

He bought the game January 6, and waited until January 19 to complain about the DLC. That was his own stupidity, he had 7 days to get his money back.

Does EA have to refund people that buy their games where their DLC and other content servers have been shut down?

You can sue Gamestop for not having the Saboteur titty DLC, but you can't sue EA for shutting down access to the content itself?

Does Gamestop have to mention DLC content that EA has already killed?

Posted by Gordo789

@FoxMulder said:

Someone sued over the DLC not being in the Saboteur??? All the DLC contained was that every woman in ONE bar in the game were topless...THATS IT!! I can't believe they even sold it as DLC...

Never come between a young man and his digital boobies.

Posted by pakx

@Smallville123 said:

Ugggh another example of why we are to fucking reliant on lawyers on this country. Reminds me of the lady who burnt her mouth at Mcdonalds for drinking fucking hot coffee....AND WINNING!

that woman suffered 3rd degree burns to her pelvic area and had to have skin grafts. i'm not defending the people who sued gamestop, but this is a a great example of people without all the facts playing jury and wagging their finger, and a bad example for over litigiousness in american culture.

Posted by Mike76x

@FoxMulder said:

Someone sued over the DLC not being in the Saboteur??? All the DLC contained was that every woman in ONE bar in the game were topless...THATS IT!! I can't believe they even sold it as DLC...

If I'm not mistaken, there was also a knife throwing game in that bar where you can win a car.

I got an achievement I would've missed if it weren't for that DLC.

Posted by EndlessLotus

This is why I buy new....

Posted by Rolyatkcinmai

Poor people.

Edited by HadesTimes

Not to sound like a jerk here. But why in the world would you buy a game at Gamestop for $5 less than retail; then give up your rights to return by dicking around with it for the full warranty period? You could have just bought the same game brand freakin new at Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc.. Or heaven forbid, purchased it online and actually saved some money.

I hate Gamestop and I will not shop there unless I'm given a gift card as a gift. But geez, if your a stupid consumer why should the government protect you. Not counting in the fact that the DLC they were talking about was day one DLC and was being talked about nonstop on the internet.

Good thing they had a legal leg to stand on, because using common sense; this thing would have never made it to court

Oh, and thanks Patrick for the awesome story. I hadn't paid any attention to this until now. As I don't live in CA or shop a Gamestop.

Posted by AngelN7

Man I wish I could live in the US where you can sue a company over "something videogame related" without being laughed at by the judge.

Posted by UnlivedPhalanx

@Deusoma: EB Games is owned by Gamestop in full (at least I'm very sure) so I would imagine so.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

@TyCobb said:

@Smallville123 said:

Ugggh another example of why we are to fucking reliant on lawyers on this country. Reminds me of the lady who burnt her mouth at Mcdonalds for drinking fucking hot coffee....AND WINNING!

Are you talking about the old bitch? She didn't burn her mouth, the coffee spilled on her and caused 3rd degree burns. Granted it really was her fault and McDonalds shouldn't have been sued for serving the public hot coffee like they ordered.

This was bad enough, but I can't imagine what you described. If you really are talking about another incident... never mind, I don't even want to think about it if that is true.

3rd degree burns. Do you have any idea how bad of a burn that is? I don't know about you, but my morning coffee isn't strong enough to cause 3rd degree burns. Oh, wait. Here's a picture to show you just how bad the burns are.

(Warning, blurred out old lady parts).

/former wildland firefighter

Posted by Curious_George

I have no sympathy for Gamestop. I applaud this guy for suing them.

Posted by ophanin

I guess a lot of people like to get games new, but if for only a 5 dollar difference, it's hard for me to see the point. Then again, I've purchased most of my recent games in Steam sales, so saving 5 bucks could net me another game. Decisions, decisions.

Posted by davebgray

$5 off is ridiculous to begin with.

Posted by BootlessDragoon

@TyCobb: Why don't you get your facts straight. She did spill it but McDonalds was found to have their coffee at MUCH higher temperatures than other establishments. http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/the-truth-about-mcdonalds-hot-coffee-lawsuit-why-it-matters-video.html

Posted by dza360

The real crime is that someone paid 55 bucks for Dragon Age Origins in January. That game is years old.

Posted by me3639

People are just pretty much dumb.

Also, articles on the business side of gaming is getting old because its always negative. How about an article on how Nintendo has suckered everybody into buying basically a DS. Remember all that stuff on how their 3d was going to reinvent gaming, or how are thse AR games coming, and what about that awesome 3d camera?

Posted by FishboneJenkins

As filthy as Gamestop is, can't say I'm surprised. They tried to slip a used copy of Deus Ex on me by dropping it in the bag right away before ringing it up. When I took it out and called him on it, he said he was "trying to save me some money". Never even asked me!

Posted by Xaviersx

Well, guess it wasn't such a lousy purchase for the price after all. He's affected a change, hopefully in the sale practices, and come on, in his own buying ~ really five dollars saving, was he hoping for a class action to make up for such a non discount. Probably could have done much better with eBay or Craiglist. Too interesting sales decisions there. Now, you just have to hope the industry doesn't get back on its kick that the entire resale market should be shut down negating any the topic . . . you buy that dongle once and they give you the right to throw it in the trash only.

Posted by radioactivez0r

If the publisher really wants to make sure you buy a copy new, wouldn't they put a in big bold letters (CONTAINS CONTENT ONLY AVAILABLE WITH NEW COPY) or something?

Posted by TheHBK

I don't understand why some of the users here expect for other people to be like us here. We read about video games. We love them. We get up in arms about DLC being one time use codes and anything that prevents us from buying used games, either because they are cheaper or out of print, or even borrowing them. But not everyone checks a video game site or reads a video game magazine. I have a friend who loves Assassin's Creed but he only knows so much about AC III because I told him about it.

What about people like that? Who just buy games without as much as reading the hype or any reviews on it? Or the mom who the Gamestop clerks push used games on only to find out that its missing a piece of the game.

Really, how many gamers actually stay as informed as us? How many movie goers just go watch a movie in a theatre on word of mouth? I think there are other things that people can stay informed about and the battle for used games and dlc is not at the top for many who own video game consoles.

Edited by Jab1235

What I see when I read this is someone successfully gaming the system. From what I got from the article Collins went into the store picking up a used copy of the game, everything inside it should be considered used and he should have had no expectations that any of the product was new because that's how the game is labeled. He then played the game for ~13 days, without noticing that his dlc didn't work. If he truly cared about the dlc I'm assuming he would have entered the code before playing so he could get the full experience from the beginning. Also from what I recall, Gamestop has a 2 week window where they will accept games back for almost any reason. So it seems a little bit off to me that he brings in the game on the last possible day to return it with an excuse that really doesn't add up. Then when he was denied his somewhat obvious attempt to play Dragon Age for free he threw a fit and claimed he was entitled to the content that comes with a NEW game. He didn't buy a new game, he bought a used one. He knows he bought a used one and he knows that if something is titled used everything included in the item is used.

It's just another example of someone lawyering up to reap the benefits of a trivial situation. Boo Hoo he spent $55 on a game and didn't get his code, why should we pay for the court costs of him arguing that he thinks he's entitled to downloadable content for a game. It's not something we should be bringing to courts, it's something we should have common sense about.

As much as I dislike Gamestop and most of their practices I hope they crush this guy.

Posted by fargofallout

@Eujin: It does suck. I currently live in Kansas, and I'm originally from North Dakota - both states where they impose sales tax. Thankfully, I work in Missouri, so I just have crap shipped to me at work and avoid the sales tax. Being able to avoid the 7.5% (or whatever it is) sales tax on my iPad was pretty nice.

Posted by RaidenMitsuru

FUCK YOU GAMESTOP FOR SELLING METROID PRIME TRILOGY FOR $69.99 WITHOUT THE DAMN CASE!!! But really, you can go to hell gamestop, you and your smug shitty employees.

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