Xbox Live Won't Refund Points For Game They Can't Deliver

How long can a company continue to “investigate” what’s obviously a failed download before they credit your account? For Xbox Live Marketplace, the answer is 2 months, 2 weeks, and counting. Every attempt Joe makes at resolving the issue lands him in a customer service purgatory from which no solution can ever escape. Joe writes, “The problem is that there is no recourse for the customer in a situation where this actually does happen. Microsoft took my money before my product was transferred to me. The transfer then failed to take place. It is no fault of my own and there is nothing I can do about it.” Read Joe’s full account below.

I recently attempted to purchase Ninja Gaiden Black from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Recently is used loosely here, as the original “purchase” took place on February 23th 2008.  After forking over $15 in Microsoft points, I sat and waited for my download to reach completion. This never happened. Progress reached 7% then the download disappeared from my queue without manifesting an error message.  A second attempt gave me the same result. This was a job for Xbox Live Customer Support. Here is a recap of my experience with those wonders of the customer service industry…
   
2/23 I pay money for Ninja Gaiden Black. My download fails at 7% on multiple attempts. Xbox Live Customer Support is emailed, as it is too late to contact the call center.

2/24: I call Xbox Live Support. We attempt troubleshooting. Nothing works. Later in the day I receive a reply from Support via email. An excerpt: This is a known issue that occurs with certain ISPs that perform specific types of network optimizations. Some network optimization processes can cause certain larger Marketplace files not to download. Examples of large files may also extend to content that is found in the Video Marketplace area.  (full email is attached)

2/25: I called Xbox Live Support. More troubleshooting is attempted none of which remedies the situation. I am told I will receive a callback in approximately one week, after they‘ve looked into the problem on their end. After we discuss the email I received from Xbox, I am also told to contact my ISP(Comcast) to see if the problem is originating from their end.

–Every call from here on out is escalated to a manager at some point–
–Also, in this time period, I contact Comcast. They monitor my connection for any abnormality that may cause this download to fail. None are found and I am assured that they aren’t actively doing anything that would interfere with it–

3/9: Never received a callback, so I contacted Xbox. I was told that there was no callback scheduled for my issue. More troubleshooting; no success. I am again told I will receive a callback.

3/23: Again, I did not receive a callback. I am told that the issue is “under investigation”.  I refuse any troubleshooting attempt, as I have already spent approximately 4 hours on the phone at this point. I believe this is the first time I mention wanting a refund. I am told the issue is now “under investigation with upper management”. I am told I will receive a callback in three days or less.

3/28: I did not receive a callback. I contact support and tell them I want a refund of my Xbox points. Not a credit to my credit card, just a refund of the points which are only valid currency on Xbox Live. The idea isn’t completely dismissed given the circumstances, but first the results of their investigation must be known. I am told that upper management is still investigating and I should try back in the near future to check.

4/7: I call Xbox Live Customer support. There is no further information available. I tell them that at this point, I really just want the points back. After going back and forth with management for some time I am told that the support call center does not have the ability to refund my points, but they have forwarded it to their tech department, who actually can do that. I am told to keep an eye on my points because a refund is on the way.(success!!!)

4/19: No refund is ever made. I call Xbox Live Customer support. They don’t acknowledge that I was promised a refund of my points. I get heated, but am still somehow under control. I am told there is no further information available and it is still under investigation. I tell the manager that I feel completely helpless and that this is an indictment of the reliability of the Xbox Live marketplace at large. I tell him I am emailing The Consumerist. However, I am too lazy to do so.

5/9: I directly call the Xbox Escalation Support line. The initial call center worker sounds very helpful. He seems to actually be concerned about the terrible service I have received and seems to be working for a resolution to come about today.  I am put on hold while he talks with management. He tells me he is going to transfer me to an upper level department that can help me. I am put on hold while he explains the situation to this mysterious high-level department within Microsoft. He then gets on the phone and transfers me to…..THE CALL CENTER IN INDIA. The very same place I have called SEVEN times previously and who’ve told me the same thing for the past two months. To her credit, this particular call center worker did have some skills. She danced around for a few minutes before finally giving me the same line I’ve heard so many times before: “I’m sorry, this is under investigation with upper management. I have no further information at this time.” Eventually, I am transferred to her manager, which is one of the managers I spoke with a few weeks ago.  After some futile discussion, I am told that the issue is being investigated and I will receive a callback. He couldn’t give me any type of timeframe for when I should expect my call. I actually email The consumerist.

Some Notes:
It is noteworthy that at the bottom of the description for Ninja Gaiden Black, it states “THERE ARE NO REFUNDS FOR THIS PRODUCT”.  The thing is, I did not receive a product for which a refund could be given. This is the equivalent of me walking into Bestbuy, picking up a copy of Ninja Gaiden, paying for it at the register, then the cashier refusing to give me the game and refusing to give me a refund.

The size of the file has come up as a possible problem. It’s 5.9GB, pretty big for Live. I’ve made it a point to download several large Demos and also rented a movie to test out my ability to receive products via Live. Several of these downloads were near 2GB and they all came through without incident.

The email I received stated that this is a known issue, but no one I’ve spoken to at customer support seems to be aware of any pattern of cases similar to this one.

In the earlier calls to customer support, they acknowledged that they could see on their end that the download did not complete. They haven’t done that in the last few and it came up today that, more than likely, what is actually under investigation is whether or not I somehow got the game and am now trying to claim that I didn’t.

I have spent in excess of  6 hours on the phone over this. (It’s not the money. I am a man of principle and I am not giving a massive corporation like Microsoft money for nothing.)

I have checked several message boards to see if this has happened to anyone else and I can’t find anything. It seems to be exceptionally rare.

The problem is that there is no recourse for the customer in a situation where this actually does happen. Microsoft took my money before my product was transferred to me. The transfer then failed to take place. It is no fault of my own and there is nothing I can do about it.

That’s why I’m writing this. The ability to purchase games and videos directly through Xbox Live seems like a great idea on the surface and when it works it is very convenient. However, this is a relatively new form of commerce. When you make a purchase on Live, beware of the fact that if something goes wrong with your download and troubleshooting doesn’t help; there is no effective protocol in place for them to resolve the issue. Xbox already has your money and as far as they are concerned that means the transaction is complete.

Oh yeah, and if you want to play GTA IV on Tuesday when I’m scheduled to get my system back from the repair center, my Gamertag is Tackleberrie. Be gentle though. My ‘box broke 4 days before GTA came out so, I don’t know the ropes yet.

Thank you for your time.  

By contrast, when we rented a movie through our Tivo using Amazon’s Unbox download service and it failed to arrive in one piece, Amazon investigated and resolved the issue in less than 48 hours, and that was over a weekend. They looked at our account, confirmed we weren’t able to download the file, and adjusted the account accordingly. Joe isn’t asking for special treatment—he just wants to either have his points to spend, or have a product in exchange for points. Please, Microsoft, finish your “investigation” and quit jerking Joe around.

(Photo: Getty Images)