Requesting a refund for No Man’s Sky will get your PSN account banned

When Sean Murray, the CEO of HelloGames, demoed No Man’s Sky, I thought that this space-sim is a must-have for my PS4 game collection. I pre-ordered the indy game for a steep R899 (about 60 USD) – the same cost a typical exclusive title would cost on PS4.

I must have played less than 4 hours in total, which had seen many interruptions of crashes like the below:

Despite many people not having any issues, I was certainly amongst the 1% of PS4 users who were affected by frequent crashes at random times in the game:

I sent my first email to HelloGames on the 12th August shortly after the 4th or 5th crash within an hour and received no acknowledgement of my email or even an automated incident number. After visiting HelloGames blog, I stumbled across that Sean Murray was aware of issues and that they had just hired a Q&A team:

I was surprised to read that Sean Murray had hired a new QA team which is a good indication that HelloGames was very well aware of the stability issues and crashes prior to game launch and purposefully attempted to not make users aware of it. Sean’s post also highlights that the company did not have a proper incident support system in place (which also explains the lack of response from HelloGames to my emails and crash reports).

It was clear to me that HelloGames will struggle to get stability into the game and I had already stopped playing it as I had more crash/reboot time than play time and on the 13th August raised a support ticket with Sony to request a refund for a defunct and broken No Man’s Sky:

On the 18th August, HelloGames support system went live and I submitted a separate ticket to them with the refund request to Sony. My HelloGames incident number 24929 still remains unanswered which is also a good indication that the company is incapable and unwilling to address customer concerns.

Sony continues to refuse to action my refund request and on the 23rd August (I have not played the game since the 12th August) I receive the following email:

I can see from your contact that your having problems with accessing your purchase of No Man’s Sky.
On the evening of Monday 22nd August the Publisher of No Man’s Skys released a patch that should have resolved a number of issues that users have reported.
Our team would ask that you download this patch and let us know if you continue to receive problems with accessing this title.

I replied that I had no inclination to download a patch or continue to troubleshoot, as my refund request was made at a time where the game was completely broken for me and 10 days later I had no motivation attempting to continue troubleshooting. Let’s also not forget that this is a USD60 title and that basic QA was lacking from the start. Let’s also not forget that neither HelloGames nor Sony have a decent support system in place to report crashes. Clicking on the “Report Problem” button after a No Man’s Sky crash on the PS4 results in no acknowledgement/incident number and for all intent purposes, that report goes nowhere.

I then also informed Sony that due to their unwillingness to issue a refund, I would be forced to request a chargeback for the purchase as Sony / HelloGames had sold me a broken game.

It then came as a complete surprise when Emil, the Sony Player Support Specialist tells me that if a chargeback is processed, Sony will issue a permanent ban on my account:

 

I have been a long-standing Playstation player and owned PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4 and with it spent several thousand USD on games over more than two decades. I was the first South African to receive a Playstation Home beta invite and also invited to the Killzone beta. I used to be very active in the South African Playstation community and eventually managed to get Sony to introduce a South African PSN Store and got Sony to launch Playstation Home for South Africans.

Sony’s conduct is not just unethical, but it also flouts the basic principles of the South African Consumer Protection Act. It is also questionable that the game was advertised for R899.00 but the company charged R921.48 – let’s not forget that all sales are charged in local currency, and Sony has still not been able to answer the difference in charges.

Despite being an avid player of Bungie Destiny (and although I generally suck at FPS, I am proud to have completed Moments of Triumph Year1 and Year2 and finished all raids) I am prepared to lose all my progress and purchases with Sony’s banning my account (which will happen within the next 45 days once my bank requests the chargeback) – this is a decision of principle and I will then give up on Sony altogether and perhaps to move Xbox instead.

Once Sony bans my account, I will ensure that Sony South Africa has to answer to the National Consumer Commission as well as the Department of Trade and Industry for violating the Consumer Protection Act (one of it’s principles is “right to return goods and seek redress for unsatisfactory services within a reasonable time”).

If you have experienced similar issues, please comment below.

Update 2016-08-28: I just noticed on Reddit that Sony does provide refunds, but seems to treat my reasonable request unfairly.

Update 2016-08-29: I chatted with John from Sony support and Sony outright refuses to assist. The full live-chat audit-trail is available here. In short: Sony Europe/South Africa refuses to issue a refund despite customers in the United States getting refunds. John mentioned that the publisher (HelloGames) would have to confirm that the game is faulty before they do anything.

Update 2016-08-29: Playstation South Africa has come on board. For South African players they provide you with a refund form which you can request by emailing Partserve (official Playstation South Africa support). By the sounds of it, this will then still be escalated to SCEE.

Update 2016-08-30: Standard Bank South Africa has responded that the PSN purchase of R899 is an “international purchase” but they have opened a case to determine why R921.48 was charged on products advertised in Rand. Their initial makes no sense and an internal investigation has been opened:

Please note that the transaction has been processed as an international transaction.

International transactions will have a currency conversion fee applied, which has resulted in the higher charge.
Further to the currency conversion fee will be exchange rates which may result in a lower or higher than expected charge.

Update 2016-09-08: Partserve (official Playstation South Africa support) has responded with pretty much a straight copy & paste of the SCEE response. This was a true waste of time. As last resort I will now file complaints with the consumer bodies as Sony has violated a number of consumer acts (including charging thousands of Sony PSN South Africa users more than the advertised price).

Update 2016-09-09: I have posted a separate post “Sony Playstation South Africa overcharges on purchases” about Sony South Africa’s overcharging credit card purchases during the settlement as well as their non-compliance with South African 3d secure regulations.

Update 2016-09-20: I filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) about the deceptive advertising and the incorrect pricing on the Sony Playstation Store.

Update 2016-09-27: ASASA responded that they would not investigate this issue due to me having raised complaints with other regulators. I requested escalation and another review and received confirmation that ASASA would investigate.

Update 2016-09-28: Sony South Africa continues to ignore any of my emails and refuses to even acknowledge that the Consumer Protection Act applies to them. The company seems to be of the opinion that as long as they don’t actively engage, there is no problem. This is evident in pretending that they don’t know about it – the following Twitter post is a good proof:

Sony South Africa pretends to not know about my No Man's Sky refund request

I have been in email conversation with Sony South Africa since August 2016 about this issue:

Update 2016-09-29: The UK Advertising Standards Authority is also investigating the same issue.

Update 2016-10-26: After more than 2 weeks waiting for the marketing manager to get in touch with me, I finally spoke to her telephonically and then asked to provide a response in writing. It took then another 2 weeks for the email to arrive (I have now finalised submission to the National Consumer Tribunal):

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