By John Walker on December 5th, 2011 at 2:21 pm.
To keep you up to date with the status of our investigation into EA’s dubious banning players from accessing their Origin account games (mostly multiplayer, although we’re hearing exceptions), we have, well, no news.
Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts to receive a statement on EA’s current position on their banning procedure, we have only been met with silence for the last fortnight. After some initial responses, pointing affected customers toward their support lines, we received an ambiguous statement that avoided the current issue and rather said there were plans to “review” whatever the current secret policy might be. And then no responses to our emails since. All the while, we’re hearing of case after case of customers being affected.
I’m building up quite the portfolio of affected gamers, who find after a forum violation they’re unable to access their Origin games. And within this is a more disturbing trend – those who are finding that their forum bans are, without explanation, becoming permanent bans. Permanent bans from accessing their Origin accounts, their Battlelog accounts, and therefore downloading purchased games, and playing online. Something which obviously raises serious questions about consumer rights, which is of course another angle we’re currently investigating.
The pattern tends to go like this:
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.
Of those people who contact us, we tend to get two types. The first who write invective-speckled fury on the forum, and then to us, and obviously entirely deserve their forum bans. The second are those who have done absolutely nothing wrong on the forums, but are punished erroneously, either for quoting an insult someone else has called them, or doing nothing offensive whatsoever. But neither group, according to EA’s words to us in March, should be being banned from Origin or accessing their games. A statement, however, that EA doesn’t appear willing to repeat nine months on.
So there’s Rob, who was accused of posting a commercial to his support site – a site that EA links to itself in its own support site FAQ – who received a ban. And James, permanently banned (until his account mysteriously popped back to life recently, with no communication from anyone) for saying “e-peen”. We’ve heard from Alex, who put a sweary joke on the forum, not directed at anyone, and found himself locked out of his games. Toma got in touch to say that after previous bans for what sound like entirely unacceptable forum posts, months later he has now found himself banned because of his Gravatar logo – a Reddit troll face. Buh? Pointing out that one of the main devs at EA uses the Me Gusta face got nowhere, and he has been told he’ll learn of his account’s fate in seven days, so certainly longer than the traditional 72 hour ban, potentially permanent.
Most exceptional perhaps is Aaron, who after receiving a 72 hour ban was told by EA support they couldn’t help because “the game developers control this”. Pardon? His crime? Someone else swearing on the forum, with his username in their post. Trying the live chat support instead, he was then informed that his account was permanently banned, and that “all property, items, and characters associated currently are or will soon be deleted.” Followed by, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Aaron tried again, pointing out that forum bans shouldn’t affect games. And then came this incredible reply:
“Please be informed that your account not only suspended, But it is also Banned, So you will no longer to play the game in single player.”
At this point, with no reply from those within EA who have responded to this matter in the past, we can only suggest that our readers avoid the EA forums. The chances of being banned seem far too risky, when the consequences are the loss of access to products you have paid for. We are aware we’re not the only ones looking into the legality of this matter.