Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

June 26, 2009 -

A class action lawsuit has been brought against Square Enix of America alleging unfair business practices, false advertising and unjust enrichment with regard to their long running MMORPG Final Fantasy XI.

In the suit, lead plaintiff Esther Leong of San Francisco claims that Square Enix deceived more than 100,000 customers about the game's monthly fees, penalties and restrictions. The suit seeks damages of $5 million. The nasty business which Leong charges that Square Enix engaged in includes:

  • Licensing of online game software disguised as a sale
  • Monthly fees to play the game
  • Penalties for late payment of fees
  • Interest charges for late payment of fees
  • Charges while the user's acccount is suspended
  • Termination of right to play for late payment of fees
  • User restrictions and conditions related to the game
  • Termination of game data for late payment of fees

Unfortunately, specific details of how Square Enix allegedly screwed its customers are not specified in the complaint. 1UP points out that the FFXI website lists a $12.95 monthly fee to play

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the lawsuit here.

-Doug Buffone, Entertainment Consumers Association intern

Via: Courthouse News Service


Comments

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

If no false statements or other sorts of misrepresentations were made which would lead a buyer to conclude that they wouldn't have to pay a monthly fee, then there is no valid cause of action for false advertising. All false advertising claims are based on the premise that the seller made a false statement of some sort. Plaintiffs must prove that the defendant mislead them with a false statement of some sort if they're interesting in winning their lawsuit. However, if the seller makes a false statement on one hand and a counteracting true statement on the other hand, that doesn't mean that the seller has not falsely advertised the product. The mere fact of the false statement on one hand suffices.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

So far as I can tell, Square-Enix has not advertised the game or displayed it without the online fees disclaimer.  I am curious, though, would a lack of a disclosure statement in some advertisements count as a false statement?

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

If the absence of a disclosure statement would cause a reasonable person to conclude that there are no online fees which they must pay and they purchased the product on the basis of this mistaken belief, then it could well be a good case of false advertising. Misrepresentations aren't limit to actual false statements. It is also a misrepresentation to fail to state something which a reasonable buyer would want to know prior to engaging in the purchase. The old "lying by omission" misrepresentation. If not a good case of false advertising (some statutes do require an actual false statement and don't recognize omissions as false advertising), then certainly the omission would be a factor in plaintiffs' unfair trade practice cause of action.   

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

It says you need a subscription on the fucking box.  The box and the material inside are the be-all, end-all of the advertisements, and the box itself can be looked at before purchase.  The manual can be looked at online without even going to the store.  Because of this, as long as they didn't say that no subscription fee was requred, it is not a case of false advertising.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Why do you think that "[t]he box and the material inside are the be-all, end-all of the advertisements?" Torven seems to be under the impression that there were also television advertisements for the product. And I'd be thoroughly surprised if there weren't also print advertisements. When you say the box and the material inside are the "be-all, end-all" of the advertisements, do you mean that these are the only advertisements which were ever published? Or are you suggesting the more ridiculous notion that statements contained on the box and in the material inside the box somehow trump all other statements made in any and all other advertising?  

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

No, I mean that, unless said advertisements explicitly contradicted the box and said that it was F2P, they can't be held liable for false advertising because it says on the box there is a fee.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

The law of false advertising doesn't require an explicit contradiction of the statements on the box or a statement that it was F2P. Just a false statement sufficient for the Plaintiffs to form the belief that it was F2P. And I assume that Plaintiffs' theory of the case involves some sort of deception on the part of Square Enix which lead them to form that belief. If their theory doesn't involve such a deception, then they don't have a case. 

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

I don't believe that is the case here, though I almost wish it was; I would love to see someone make the argument that a reasonable person would conclude an MMORPG did not have monthly fees.  Not because I think it would succeed or fail, but because I would love to see the rage of the neckbeards at someone arguing their view of the situation was not that of a reasonable person. =P

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

An Terms of Use Agreement is now law and sometimes Terms of Use Agreements add in language in itself is not legal but its, “testing the waters.” In situations like that if the other party or other parties lawyer doesn’t catch it but later notices an abusive clause it can be amended or removed by a Judge.

Just because again you agree to a Terms of Use Agreement doesn’t mean again you have to agree to those terms especially again if it is unlawful in nature. You’ll get lawyers who sometimes want to add in personal things that even though its not legal in this state they want too see if the other person won’t notice. I once had a lawyer like that, he was an idiot.

If you feel like a Terms of Use Agreement or a Service you paid for is violating you or your rights you can seek to have a Judge hear your case. Again, just because you have a lawsuit doesn’t make you a bad guy. What you are doing is sometimes getting yourself Legal Representation in which your paying for, then you pay for the Court Costs which means your paying for the Court to hear you (Not to mention your already paying taxes) and you’re pretty much asking a Judge to hear your claim and take a look at this matter and then that Judge will decide the merit of your case and if the company is in the wrong.

That is your right as an American Citizen because again when a business refuses to change it’s policy and they act in a hostile and sometimes abusive manner you do have the right to have a Judge take a look at this policy.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Doc, from where do you get these pearls of legal wisdom? The back of a Fruit Loops cereal box?

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Well, Square just assured that I'll never touch one of their MMOs, ever.

I would say Blizzard got it right. You pay for time on WoW either by paying directly or buying time cards, and you can check your account to see how much time you have leftm and if you run out, you buy more when you can. No extra charges. And Blizzard won't erase all of your hard work should you miss a payment, and with how much more a person has to put in on FF11, that's an even bigger slap to the face.

 

And I thought the unbeatable boss was a bad move. If you put in 36 hours of fighting and the boss isn't dead by then, it can be considered unbeatable.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Let's not forget when an error occurs (IE bad credit card), WoW simply "Freezes" the account.  When the player pays the bill, he can still use the characters on that account without having to start over (unless you want to roll another character than by all means).

 

This is coming from a guy who's played Wow for about 3 years and has taken about a year off from the game.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Hm?  With FFXI you have 90 days to reactive an account before data is deleted, that's what happened to me once.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Most other online game services state that your character MAY be eligible for deletion after 3 months of account inactivity.

if it ever happens, however, then it is a very LARGE exception.

I have, for example, had accounts for AO, EVE, SWG, EQ2, PS, PotBS, WoW, GW, Neocron2, Navyfield and so forth lay inactive for up to years at a time, and have YET to ever get a character deleted due to inactivity.

Not to mention, there's no such thing as "late charges", as an account for these games is only ever open WHEN PAYMENT HAS BEEN RECIEVED*, and up to the paid for period thereafter.

 

*or playcard/other special offers has been verified.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Where as Blizzard keeps your account indefinately I've come and gone from them and still have my same account that I started in Closed Beta o_o;

 

The only thing that angered me with FFXI is I got tired of it, bored within' a few hours because of how slow it took to gain levels and I died quick and it was frustrating so it took me 3 days to find the means to Cancel where as with WoW it took me 10 minutes to cancel my account...that's the only issue I've had with FFXI

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

The plaintiffs are alleging that there was, among other wrongs, false advertising and that what was advertised as an outright sale of software is instead effectively a licensing of the software. If this is true, then all their other claims about monthly fees and penalties for non-payment of monthly fees, etc., would flow naturally from the alleged licensing agreement disguised as a sale. If I buy something outright, it's mine to freely use. I don't thereafter have to pay the seller a monthly fee to use it.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Ugh, just about every single MMO does this stuff; what's the problem?  FFXI has been around for years and NOW someone has a problem with it?  Sounds to me like it's just someone suing to try to get money out of big business again.

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

"...specific details of how Square Enix allegedly screwed its customers are not specified in the complaint."

Of course they aren't.  In order to have specific details, they would actually need a good reason to sue, as pointed out above by Austin_Lewis.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

A Judge at any time can dismiss a suit if he or she deems it frivolous and then decide whether or not to hear the rest of this case. However, Playonline again has already been suited and Playonline lost so there is a case history and already a verdict of negligence by Playonline.

This can be a good thing for consumers because again if this happens nationwide it can change the landscape of the MMO world.

It’s like going at the heart of DRM and land a victory forcing companies all over to make sure to get rid of infectious products making it better for the public.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Or it could be seen by devs that MMO's aren't worth the trouble to make them P2P, so you get a lot of crappy F2P games.  Yes, I know there are a few good ones, but most really aren't.  Not having good P2P MMO's anymore is not a good thing.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

You're so full of it.  The things being complained about here are all things that WoW, the holy grail of commercial MMOs, does not do.  No one in dev (or more importantly, no one in production) is going to look at this case and say "well, P2P MMOs are not worth the risk".  They're going to say "that was pretty greedy, and stupid, of them.  Let's get back to trying to clone WoW so we, too, can print our own money."

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Printing your own money so beats the piss out of having to earn it. It's the only sensible way to go, once you think about it.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

If WoW, DnD:Online and other MMOs get sued for the same, then that could discourage. But some of these claims already betray quite a big difference in payment-methods between the other games and this one, if they're correct.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Sounds more like the terms and conditions of most pay-to-play games...

 

Except, of course, the chargin suspended accounts, but that sounds more like error than crime.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

@GRU:

Industry standards don't really matter, though. What counts is whether or not this particular industry player in any way mislead buyers to reasonably believe that they were entering into a sale and not a licensing agreement.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

After Everquest and before World of Warcraft yes. However most companies seeing gamers were becoming largely represented and World of Warcraft billing polices help make that company good capitol abandoned the old SOE Everquest Formula on how to make or conduct an MMO.

Bottom line very few people still play FFXI and seeing your dollar invests in a company and so people eventually change their rules to get that dollar you haven’t been seeing many lawsuits. However Playonline had already been suited in Illinois and that suit was won so Playonline eventually settled and in Illinois they conduct business in a better fashion.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

We hate you, too.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

  • Licensing of online game software disguised as a sale(Lol, wut?)
  • Monthly fees to play the game (No shit! Everyone knows that you have to pay to play FFXI!  It was advertised as a game with a monthly subscription!)
  • Penalties for late payment of fees (Because God forbid they act like every other company that demands subscription payments)
  • Interest charges for late payment of fees (See Above)
  • Charges while the user's acccount is suspended  (I've never heard of this on FFXI, but if you have access to something suspended due to YOUR jackassery, they don't need to refund you anything or stop charging you.)
  • Termination of right to play for late payment of fees (This is a dumbass line of reasoning)
  • User restrictions and conditions related to the game (can someone define this better?)
  • Termination of game data for late payment of fees (sounds like this jackass needs to learn to pay his bills on time).

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

@Austin_Lewis, who wrote: Licensing of online game software disguised as a sale (Lol, wut?)

An "lol" and a "wut?" aren't the most well-reasoned refutations of a claim that I've ever seen. You may want to try taking a look at the advertised terms by which the seller offered the transaction and giving some though to whether or not a reasonable person could have concluded that the offer's advertised terms were for an outright sale and not for a licensing agreement. That's a bit more analytical than the conclusory "lol" and "wut?" 

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

It was more a lol, wut to the idea that it was disguised as a sale.  When it was coming out, people knew it would require a subscription (and, for the PS2, a Hard Drive).  People still know this.

Also, WoW does the same thing.  You buy the content, but then you have to pay to get online.  How is this any different?

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

WoW doesn't charge late fees, and doesn't charge for suspended periods (resulting from breaches of TOS or anything else).

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Neither does SOE, PlayNC, Reakktor, CCP, Flying Labs or FunCom for that matter.

If SOE ever did so with EQ, then they evidently have learned since then.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

What people may or may not know is of absolutely no relevance in a case of false advertising. What is of relevance is whether the statements made by the advertiser can be reasonably construed to state an offer for transaction "X" when the transaction really being offered is for "Y."

And just like common knowledge is of no relevance, so, too, is the industry standard of no relevance. What's relevant is the statements of the particular industry player and their reasonable construction. That everyone else says "Y" doesn't mean that the particular advertiser wasn't saying "X."

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Well, the real pickle is, if people knew beforehand it was going to cost them a subscription fee, how did they find that out?  Oh, wait, SQUARE SAID SO!

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

I don't know what kind of pickle you think that is, but with respect to the law of false advertising, it's a meaningless pickle. What Square said to anyone other than the Plaintiffs is of no consequence. What the Plaintiffs claim Square did or didn't say to them and what defense Square may have to those specific claims is all that matters. Or do you foolishly think that a claim of false advertising by Plaintiff X can be defended by pointing to what was said to everyone else but Plaintiff X? Everyone else ain't suing you. Plaintiff X is.  

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

So you're saying that Square told a crapton of people that they had to pay a fee, but singled out these people for not, but made them pay anyway?

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what Square Enix told anyone other than what the Plaintiffs are claiming Square Enix told them.

And what I will also say is that, as a rhetorical device, your habit of prefacing your arguments with "So what you're saying is . . ." when I've actually said nothing of the sort is about as weak-ass as it gets. Where'd you pick that up? Has it ever actually worked on other people? Like, do they really let you put words in their mouths which they haven't ever actually said? If it has worked for you before, here's the bad news: that dumb shit ain't gonna fool all the people, all the time.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Penalties for late payment of fees - No other company still does this, again Playonline does not look to make a profit and still have not suspended a lot of old Everquest formula actions or policies which made the Everquest Formula unpopular.

Charges while the user's acccount is suspended - People who get banned, sometimes for small reasons in which any other MMO this action wouldn't be considered illegal Playonline is known to keep billing you. So basically you have no service, but you keep getting billed which reminds us all of AOL.

User restrictions and conditions related to the game -

Termination of game data for late payment of fees -

Basically as what was stated above. If something happens to credit card or a bill change happens they can charge you late fees and then suspend your account to where you can’t pay but then in Playonline own way punish you by making you pay for a couple of months with interest and then Terminating your account.

Though I don’t know what’s more challenging, waiting for a party for hours in the Dunes or needing a five man party to fight bats and rats or just playing this game in general?

Basically the restrictions it puts on you to play this game, some of the in game rules which you can challenge and bring before a Judge. Just because a person writes up a shotty legal agreement does not make it binding if it is breaking the law. You can always take your case to a Judge and have that Judge Null the Contract or amend it.

Companies with abusive policies or Terms of Agreements are good examples of what a court can come in and do.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Penalties for late payment of fees - No other company still does this, again Playonline does not look to make a profit and still have not suspended a lot of old Everquest formula actions or policies which made the Everquest Formula unpopular.

Do you pay your own bills?  THOUSANDS of companies do this.

If you get temporarily suspended on XBL, you still pay.  There's no refund or pro rating.

And, like all services, if you don't pay on time, they can (and should) be suspended.

 

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

XBL is a service, not a game. At DnD Online, not paying means my account gets frozen. If I start playing again, my account is unfrozen starting from the point where I pay, plus give or take a day for the unfreezing to take place. I don't get fined for not paying, and the time I didn't play isn't billed either. It's simply the end of a subscription and not paying to have it renewed.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

No other Gaming company does this, to my knowledge.

Wow just cancels your account until such time as you can pay.

SOE did the same thing.

In fact, in the gaming realm, this PlayOnline company seems pretty dishonest, if the claims in this lawsuit are true. I'll have to remember never to be a patron of this company..

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

It depends on how much the late payment fees are to be honest.  I've never played FFXI so I wouldnt know, but imo that's the only part where they *may* (read: MAY) have a case.  Even if it is a bit greedy, it's not necessarily illegal if its outlined in the terms of use (you know, that thing everyone hits "accept" on without reading?) The rest of it is just standard MMO policy.

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

In a case claiming false advertising, the contract entered into by the buyer may not alone be dispositive. If, for example, the seller induced the buyer to come to their place of business by advertising a "sale" but, once the buyer got there, was in fact offering a "lease," then that's a "bait and switch" and is indeed false advertising. Even though the buyer went ahead and entered into the lease.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Like I said, if it's clearly outlined in the terms of use, then it isnt against the law, but if they used deceptive language or something like that in the terms of use, then yes, they may have a case.  However, to know for sure someone's going to have to take a close look at a copy of the terms of use and i dont feel like buying my own copy of the game right now to do so >.>

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

"Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, Jack Thompson'll justify it in the end." - nightwng2000

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

That's absolutely incorrect. If the seller induced the buyer into agreeing to the terms of use by means of false statements, then, regardless of what the terms of use state, that's false advertising. And "caveat emptor" ("let the buyer beware") is usually not a valid defense to a claim of false advertising.

To use my previous example again, if I tell you, "Come on down to Crazy Eddie's Car Mart and I'll sell you this '98 Pontiac Firbird" and when you get to my Car Mart, I offer to lease you the '98 Firebird, then that's false advertising. Even though you went ahead and signed the lease agreement and regardless of what the terms of the lease agreement may say. It's still false advertising. For which you are entitled to sue me and, when you win your lawsuit, give me back my Firebird and get back any monies you've paid me on the terms of our lease agreement. Because I tricked you into the deal with my false advertising. 

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Give an example of a false statement used that would apply to this case.  We don't know of any such claim, considering that isn't even cited in the suit (neither were ANY details of the complaint).  If that were the case, then the lawyers suing are idiots for not citing it.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

Actually, because most court rules of procedure only require that the plaintiff provide enough facts in their complaint to put the defendant on notice that there's a claim against them (so-called "notice pleading") and don't require each and every fact of the plaintiff's case to be set forth in excruciating detail, you'll find that most smart attorneys draft complaints that are thin on factual allegations. The benefit of doing this, as a matter of strategy, is that the plaintiff isn't showing all his cards to the defendant early in the game. That way, if the defendant wants to see the cards that the plaintiff has, it'll cost the defendant something to do so.

And we do know that the class of plaintiffs is alleging, among other things, false advertising and the disgusing of a licensing agreement as an outright sales agreement. What falsehoods were stated which would lead the plaintiffs to believe that they are the victims of false advertising and a disguised transaction, I can only speculate. But those speculations ain't really worth much. What's all-important is what the plaintiffs think. And, for right now, they ain't telling nobody what they think. And that's their right.  

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

It's not what the plaintiff's think.  It's the de-facto wording.  If the wording is vague, this will swing the judge into their favor, but if it's clear that they were buying a game that charged monthly fees before purchase (Which I am willing to bet, seeing as how the plaintiff's are NOT the entire FF11 community), they don't have a leg to stand on.  As such, it would behoove the defense just to show the box the game came in.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom to say ANYTHING, so long as it is the truth. This does not exclude anything that might hurt someone's feelings.

--- With the first link, the chain is forged.

Re: Consumer Class-Action Suit Targets Final Fantasy XI

I'm beginning to suspect that you get your pearls of legal wisdom from the back of the same Fruit Loops cereal box that Ol' Doc Kefka does.

 
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