Texas-based law firm Baron and Budd announced that GameStop settled a class-action lawsuit recently. GameStop was being sued over its practice of selling used games that require secondhand purchasers to pay an additional $15 fee for otherwise free DLC content.
As a result of this lawsuit, GameStop has agreed to post notices in their used games sections notifiying customers that the DLC advertised as free on the box may actually require additional purchases. They have also agreed to reimburse customers who have had to pay the surprise $15 fee, provided that their game is a “qualifying used game” and that they are a member of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards. Those who are being reimbursed will receive a $10 check and a $5 coupon. Individuals who have purchased a qualifying used game but are not members of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards customer loyalty program will still be reimbursed, but will instead receive only a $5 check and a $10 coupon.
Mark Pifko, the Baron and Budd attorney who counselled the lawsuit, regarded this concession from the video game retailer as a victory.
We are pleased that as a result of this lawsuit, we were able to obtain complete restitution for consumers, with actual money paid out to people who were harmed by GameStop’s conduct. The in-store and online warnings are an important benefit under the settlement as well, because if GameStop discloses the truth to consumers, it is unlikely that they will be able to continue selling used copies of certain games for only $5 less than the price of a new copy. In fact, we already know that not long after the lawsuit was filed, GameStop lowered prices for used copies of many of the game titles identified in the lawsuit.
Analysis: While it may not be GameStop’s fault that greedy game companies have been trying to squash the secondhand market with once-per-copy DLC that costs a fortune to purchase separately, GameStop was certainly taking advantage of this practice by fooling uninformed customers – usually parents buying games for kids – into purchasing a game that no longer possesses the “free” DLC. In these circumstances, the uninformed customer sees the slightly cheaper price of the used copy, doesn’t realize that it’s an incomplete edition, and then winds up having to pay exorbitant prices for the DLC that is advertised as free on the box.
Frankly, I’m glad that GameStop is getting slapped on the hand for this practice, although it was slightly revolting to see their “concessions.” $10 in cash and a $5 coupon, only for qualifying games, and only for members of a customer loyalty program? Come on, GameStop, is that extra $5 really going to bankrupt you? Or is it just impossible for you to show any class even after losing a class-action lawsuit?
Sure, GameStop has never been a shining knight of virtue, as their preorder-only DLC policies show, but this is low even for them.