Nintendo is the only console maker whose digital storefront doesn’t allow customers to cancel pre-orders. With pre-release downloads of software becoming increasingly common, however, at least one major consumer rights body has had enough with Nintendo’s eShop policies — especially because, according to the European Union Consumer Rights Directive, the company is skirting the law.
The Norwegian Consumer Council decried Nintendo eShop’s no-cancellation policy in a formal letter sent directly to the company. PressFire, a local gaming site, reported that it obtained a copy of the letter, in which the Council asks Nintendo to either clarify how to cancel digital pre-orders — or instate a way to do so as soon as possible.
The Council attached a screenshot from Nintendo’s official purchase terms, which state only that “all sales are final,” including sales of digital software.
This is in direct conflict with the Consumer Rights Directive, legislation first passed in 2011 by the European Commission that grants “a higher level of protection for consumers ... in their own country or elsewhere in the EU.”
One of the directive’s provisions is that consumers must be able to cancel any online purchases, as well as receive refunds within two weeks of that cancellation. While there are some exemptions to this, including for physical media that has been opened, online retailers are otherwise expected to give customers the opportunity to cancel.
Microsoft, Sony, Valve, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft all offer cancellations and subsequent refunds to customers who pre-order software from their online marketplaces. Nintendo is the outlier, the Norwegian Consumer Council notes.
“Even with prior consent, Nintendo cannot prohibit the consumer from cancelling or withdrawing from a digital content contract before the [launch] has begun,” the letter reads.
The Norwegian Consumer Council asks that Nintendo explain whether there is some hidden way for consumers to “freely cancel or withdraw from a pre-order or pre-purchase” and, if so, how one can do that. Yet if there is no way to get your money back for a pre-order — if sales really are final — then the Council demands that Nintendo defend how this doesn’t violate the terms of the Consumer Rights Directive.
Nintendo’s support pages explicitly state that the company is “unable to provide refunds or exchanges for mistake purchases,” and includes pre-purchases among the final sales mentioned in its cancellation policy.
Update: Nintendo told Polygon that concerns about its eShop cancellation policies are unfounded in Europe.
“The operation of Nintendo eShop in Europe is fully compliant with European laws relating to the statutory rights of consumers,” the company said.