This week Apple quietly updated iTunes' terms and conditions governing sale of digital goods in the European Union to allow people to cancel and request a refund up to 14 days after making a purchase.
While it's yet unclear how this will affect games sold in the EU via the App Store or whether it will be added to the iTunes terms and conditions in other territories, it's something game developers should prepare for. The relevant portion of the revised terms reads as follows:
"Right of cancellation: If you choose to cancel your order, you may do so within 14 days from when you received your receipt without giving any reason...we will reimburse you no later than 14 days from the day on which we receive your cancellation notice."
That's potentially troublesome language for mobile game developers, as many games could conceivably be purposefully purchased, exhausted and cancelled for refund in less than two weeks of play. However, there's a notable exception to the new terms:
"Exception to the right of cancellation: You cannot cancel your order for the supply of digital content if the delivery has started upon your request and acknowledgement that you thereby lose your cancellation right."
Thus, developers concerned about the new terms may need to consider updating their games going forward to secure players' express forfeiture of their cancellation right.
As noted by MacRumors, this update brings Apple in line with consumer protection guidelines laid out in the Consumer Rights Directive, which was formally adopted by the European Union in 2011.
For more insight on how to respond to the change, check out the preliminary analysis of how digital goods retailers operating in Germany can best comply with the CRD guidelines published this summer by international law firm Osborne Clarke.
Update: London-based game industry attorney Jas Purewal points out on Twitter that it will be difficult for consumers of digital goods to seek relief under this new law:
Technically consumers have a 14 day return ability in EU, but for DIGITAL goods the right is lost immediately on download or access.— Jas Purewal (@gamerlaw) December 30, 2014
Update 2: Gamasutra reached out to Purewal for further comment and this is what he had to say:
"Although many companies including Apple have implemented return policies for EU consumers under new EU consumer laws, in practice it's unclear how it will actually apply to apps, games or other digital content. This is because the EU consumer laws say that once a consumer has bought 'digital content', a retailer is not required to offer a return once that content effectively has been delivered or begun to be used.
"As a result, several companies -- even though they are subject to EU law and have similar wording to Apple in their T&Cs -- refuse or make difficult digital returns to EU consumers. So, we'll have to see what this Apple policy change means in practice."