Rock, Paper, Shotgun has reported that a player’s entire Origin account can be locked out for violating the Terms of Service agreement on a forum provided by either EA or the game developer.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun first reported on this situation in March 2011 when Bioware forum member Arno made this comment on the forums:
“Have you sold your souls to the EA devil?”
At the time, Dragon Age 2 had just been released. Many PC gamers felt betrayed by the fact that so many shortcuts had been taken to make the game playable on consoles, and that it had been rushed out in what appeared to be a cash grab for EA after the merger with Bioware. At the time, several gaming news sites reported on this, and EA said little aside from, “No comment.” Then suddenly, EA had this to say:
“Unfortunately, there was an error in the system that accidentally suspended your entire EA account. Immediately upon learning of the glitch, we have restored the entire account and apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused while accessing other areas of the EA service.”
This “glitch” was still being looked into a few days later by Rock, Paper, Shotgun and EA’s Andrew Wong told them this:
Thankfully, nothing of consequence had happened soon after, and the “glitch” seemed to be fixed. Then Ars Technica forum member Nadroj462 reported that his account had been banned for a comment he made about NHL ’12 on EA’s forums. EA gave this information to the user about why his account was banned:
“The email address [xxxx], and all EA personas associated with it (including personas/accounts used for multiplayer games), have been suspended from our services for 72 hours. This action was taken due the severity and number of violations of our Terms of Service committed with the personas associated with this email address. The most recent violations leading to this action include: [I have an idea that will surely work to help E$$A$$ come out with a proper fix]”
This was not widely reported, but after Battlefield 3 came out, many forum members were banned. Rock, Paper, Shotgun received word from several gamers trying to get the word out that EA was banning their whole Origin account for comments made on the EA forums. There were a few incidents reported, the first of which came from Nick. His ban was in regards to his comments about tea bagging and being descriptive about sexual activity. The second incident came from Rob, who was accused of posting to a commercial in the forum. What Rob had actually done was link to a non-commercial blog site about network troubleshooting, which in fact EA links to in its own corporate support site under the FAQ. The last story came from James, who had not initiated the use of vulgar language but instead made a reply to another user who had:
“Ah, back to the e-peen talk.”
The word e-peen is short for electronic penis, which is used to suggest that someone is saying their penis is bigger. James was originally told that his ban would only last for 72 hours, the standard amount of time for first time offenders. James then received another e-mail from EA stating that his account had been permanently banned. James contacted EA about this new development and received this reply:
“Please note that your account [e-mail] has been permanently terminated from the Electronic Arts Online service for violating the terms of services. The account will no longer be accessible in any way, and all property, items, and characters associated currently are or will soon be deleted. This action was necessary due to the repeated nature of the offense on the account. We regret having to take this final step, but it is entirely necessary on behalf of protecting the Electronic Arts Online community. The violation has already been discussed above so further communication on this matter won’t be entertained. We thank you for your understanding on all the statutes within the Terms of Service, and they still contractually apply to you as per the original agreement, especially the sections regarding terminated members of the service.”
There is currently no option to appeal this decision, and EA’s word is final not matter the circumstances. EA has given no word about this policy, nor has there consistent communication to those affected: there have been reports of customers being told that the developers of the games have exclusive control, while others have been told it’s up to the forum moderator.
The most recent update from Rock, Paper, Shotgun has assumed the following to be a pattern regarding how EA handles bans:
Person says a naughty word on an EA forum.
Person receives 72 hour ban from forums, which blocks Origin too.
Person contacts EA customer support and is told “tough”.
Person writes to RPS.
With the occasional addition of: Person finds their ban has become permanent with no warning, and no option to appeal.
They go on to recommend to their readers that they should should stay away from EA’s forums. The risk is too high for people to lose their games that they’ve paid for and put time into. They also note that they are not the only ones looking into the legality of these tactics.
Analysis: I have been following this since it all started with Dragon Age 2. This was just one of the many reasons why I didn’t want to jump on board with Origin; the possibility of losing all my game content with Origin with only one infraction is absurd, to say the least. These kinds of policies piss me off, especially as I believe in freedom of speech and am a veteran. EA is literally abusing its customers with either ignorance, sheer greed and cruelty, or a combination of the two. I have to ask, honestly, how can EA not know what’s going on in their own company in regards to who’s doing the banning and having loose guidelines for why someone is being banned?
I do believe people should be held accountable for their actions, especially when they are being vulgar to others in a public forum. I do not believe that a person’s access to content they paid for should be taken away, no matter how vile the violation. The forum account and Origin account should be separate so if one is affected by a ban, the other still exists.
I also believe that multiplayer accounts should not be tied into one account. I have to use a hack to fix my multi-monitor resolution for Call of Duty: Black Ops, so what if I had to do that for Battlefield 3 and it was read as a false positive for cheating? The whole account would then be banned on Origin, and even games I did not need to do this with would be affected based on what’s going on right now.
This reason, along with what others have experienced, tells me that EA should have a system in place for us to challenge the decision for a permanent account ban. We have the right to appeal decisions by law. I know EA have the resources to give us the ability to at least appeal this in a limited way, but the problem is they don’t want to. It’s scary to think someone can take away hours of playtime and hard-earned cash all because they were just having a bad day.
This is a ludicrous situation. I said all along that I do not trust Origin because of EA’s past behavior, and they’re not making a case for me to put anymore trust into them. If anything, they’re losing what little trust they have left with their being silent. EA needs to step up and fix this ASAP for past and current infractions, or this whole situation is going to explode and probably take a good chunk of money away from EA when it’s all said and done. I hate to think the only reason they would be persuaded to do anything would be based on legal action. If that comes and they do, good for us. I still would not trust EA because they’d have acted only because they were at gun point, not because of their own good nature.
I’m going to recommend the same thing to our readers that Rock, Paper, Shotgun has done: do not use EA’s forums because the price is far too high if you express your displeasure for something EA or another developer has done. I will even go as far to say don’t use Origin unless the game you want to play requires it (e.g. Battlefield 3). I have plans to get two other titles in six months that are being published by EA, and those are as far as I will go. I will not buy any other games on Origin this holiday season no matter how good the deal is. I honestly believe there is no price low enough for me to buy anything through Origin. Not if EA can and will abuse their power to take those purchases away if I exercise my freedom of speech to say I don’t agree with them and am not being vulgar or lying outright.