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)


Edit Your Comment

  1. iEddie says:


  2. WingZero987 says:

    Articles like this just boggle the mind. How large does a company have to be when stuff like this falls into giant holes of bureaucracy?

    Common sense dictates that fighting the customer over this is one huge Pyhrric victory. However, due to the nature of companies and authority, how often can common sense be applied?

    Here you go Microsoft, I’m willing to contract FOR FREE to help you solve this problem:

    A) Verify the claim.
    a1. If claim cannot be verified, give customer the benefit of the doubt and make a “comment” on the action taken on their account.
    B) Refund the points.
    C) Work to find a solution to help them download the game. If such action cannot be taken immediately, apologize and offer a handful of bonus points (no physical product yay!) to placate the customer.

    To think what a simple 20-something liberal arts graduate can do….

  3. What The Geek says:

    silly question – do you have the 5.9 gigs free on your hard drive?

  4. cmcd14 says:

    Stories like this are nerve racking. I hope I never encounter a problem like this on Live. Can’t believe they make such a simple problem to fix so hard. It’s $15, give the man his points.

  5. HalOfBorg says:

    @What The Geek:
    Beat me to it………..

  6. Megatenist says:

    @What The Geek

    Funny,I thought the same thing,too

    Stories like this make me glad I sold my thrice-fixed 360 and got a PS3

  7. zentex says:

    “no fault of my own”…something doesn’t smell right already. Why does he have to keep stating that?

    I had a movie fail, and then my xbox failed. I sent in the box, called about the movie and got the points credited. NO issues, hassles, or whining to the consumerist needed.

    …of course, I didn’t sound like a whiny bitch when I called either.

  8. scoosdad says:

    @iEddie: It was points, not a credit card that bought the download. RTFA.

  9. AlastairHoosier says:

    While I’m sure a lot of fingers need to be pointed at MS for this issue, I
    think a larger issue that is only touched on briefly is his ISP. Comcast.
    They do for a fact do these “network optimizations”. Don’t be surprised to
    hear more about this.

  10. howie_in_az says:

    Microsoft: listen up, you’re alienating potential customers and driving them into Sony’s arms. I’m one of them. I’d love nothing more than to buy a FULLY FUNCTIONAL XBox that’s not going to die within 3 hours of turning it on, but the more press you get here at The Consumerist, the less chance you have of making that sale and numerous others.

  11. WingZero987 says:

    @howie_in_az: Then buy the elite. And PS3 is starting to have problems with its blu-ray drive dying on people, so it’s less and less attractive as an alternative.

  12. unravel says:

    @zentex: He said it was “no fault of [his] own” once, yet you’re acting like it’s his fucking mantra and you’re mortally offended by the non-existent repetition there. You may not have sounded like a whiny bitch when you called, but you sure do sound like one in your post.

  13. parad0x360 says:

    Interesting because I had a movie rental failed download and I got my money back the next day in about 5 min. Maybe Joe is acting like a jerk?

  14. iEddie says:

    @scoosdad: It was a credit card that bought the points.

  15. hejustlaughs says:

    @scoosdad: “…RFTA”

    From the article:
    “Not a credit to my credit card, just a refund of the points which are only valid currency on Xbox Live.”

    He used a credit card to purchase enough points for the game. I’d accept a refund or chargeback to my CC and re-purchase the points.

  16. iEddie says:

    @hejustlaughs: Of course, they may cancel his account if he does a chargeback. But I don’t think I’d want to do business with them after this, so it wouldn’t be a problem – at least for me. I can’t speak for the OP, of course. :)

  17. I have worked for XBOX Support including live. And was an Escalataions agent as well. Unless they changed their systems they do in fact have a way to refund the points.

    Their system lets them see the purchased you made and the total points. They cannot GIVE the points. But they can Refund that purchase giving the points back to your account.

    This happend to be when I had a video download where two Episodes were the same. They refunded the points. And funny thing was it still shows the item as purchased that I could download again at no cost.

  18. iEddie says:

    @What The Geek: Even if he doesn’t, I’m going to place the blame on Microsoft – their software should not allow a user to purchase 5.9 GBs of content if the user does not have 5.9 GBs available on their drive.

  19. mrsammercer says:

    “Joe” here. Yep, I had the 5.9 gigs available on the hard drive…
    In saying “it was no fault of my own”, I was just pointing out that there is nothing on my end that is stopping this download from going through. Therefore, I should not be held accountable for the fact that it didn’t. And how would you know if I called in like a whiny bitch, zentex?
    Also I wasn’t being a jerk to customer support, definitely not at first. But after the lack of callbacks and two months of hearing the same exact phase?? I’ll admit, I got a little surly.

  20. cyberscribe says:

    Regardless of what happened, or how it happened, it should never take weeks to resolve the matter. That’s not just “poor customer service”; it’s no customer service at all.

    Microsoft has never shown itself to be terribly concerned about keeping it’s customers happy, or keeping them as customers at all, for that matter. Most people already know this.

    The fact that the ISP was Comcast also raises issues and suspicions. As we’ve all read in the news recently, Comcast does everything it can to avoid actually living up to it’s promise of “unlimited” bandwidth. They’ve already been caught (and publicly ostracized) for intentionally disrupting all Bittorrent traffic on their networks. They routinely cancel customers who go over 2 GB of downloads a month.

    In the news today there was an article about how Comcast is considering charging extra for any customer that goes over their “undisclosed” monthly download limit:

    “Comcast mulling Net usage cap to discourage ‘excessive’ use”


  21. newfenoix says:

    Don’t play many games but do own a Wii. As far as ISP’s go, I use AT&T Uverse and I have never had a problem

  22. Scazza says:

    @cyberscribe: agreed, it could be Comcast’s fault. Especially since he says comcast “looked into it”, which, as everyone knows, is bs for “looked at his account info, and said it was all good”…

    Also, me and many people I know, have had DLs fail on XBL, and they refund your points pretty much right away over the phone, so I fail to see what the problem is in this case. Unless there might be something else going on (I am in no way blaming the OP)…

  23. Fawkes says:

    5.9GB is not large for an elite; I still have nearly 100GB free on mine. The situation still sucks though and, while I hope it gets resolved; I must admit: the crying baby picture used to accentuate this article seems a little insulting… I’d try Major Nelson & see if he can help.

  24. Chris Walters says:

    @Fawkes: Interesting comment on the photo choice. I didn’t mean to call Joe a crybaby, but rather to elicit compassion from readers and to imply that Microsoft was being unnecessarily cruel to a “helpless” customer. Maybe I’ll change it.

  25. idlewillkill says:

    I’m going to go ahead and discount Comcast as being the cause of the problem. I could see one download crapping out, but not several, at effectively the same point. Comcast throttles customers, which slows down connections by dropping packets. They don’t kill downloads altogether.

  26. henwy says:

    Has anyone ever gotten called back by a CSR when a callback has been promised? I’ve noticed that’s always a common theme in many complaints that call backs never occur. Is it just a way to shut you up and get you off the phone?

  27. macinjosh says:

    Hey Microsoft, how about you throw the points back into his account temporarily while you’re investigating, and if you discover he’s a lying scumbag, take them back. Savvy?

  28. zentex says:

    @unravel: yea, he says it once, my bad. I saw it *twice* in the story and that’s why it was in my head as more than once.

  29. This is YET another example of how Microsoft’s complete inability to resolve any out-of-the-ordinary issues with their Xbox Live service.

    It really is incredible how inept this company is.

  30. dualityshift says:

    MS does not care about its customers.

    Are you all aware that their DRM will not allow you to upgrade your xbox? If you have a 360 Premium and go up to the Elite, Microsoft EXPECTS you to repurchase your content. I am going through this right now. Over a dozen phonecalls to xbox have done nothing more than annoy me. Their support staff becomes quite rude when you tell them their answer is not acceptable.

    Apparently, on the Marketplace pane, each download description says the download is only good for that console. After arguing this for literally hours (it says nothing of the sort) I was told on several occassions that “That’s the way it is. There is not resolution for you. Good day.”

    I doubt I’ll be downloading anything off the xbox servers anytime soon.

  31. Scuba Steve says:

    @WingZero987: Indeed. However, given a choice between blue-ray death (which I’ve had) and RROD (which I haven’t had), I think I’d prefer the one that would still let me play all the downloaded games and demos.

  32. Fawkes says:

    @dualityshift: MS offers a free hdd data transfer cable for users moving from the premium to the elite. Worked like a charm for me, all my content, updates, & profiles were on the new drive when I started it up for the first time.


  33. mrsammercer says:

    @macinjosh: I made a similar suggestion to customer service yesterday. They told me that their fear is that I bought the game, then may have changed my mind mid-download and canceled it. That’s honestly one of the ideas that’s “under investigation” according to the manager at the call center. I then suggested that they give me a code for $15 worth of points and if at any point in the future I do successfully download Ninja Gaiden Black, they could feel free to recharge me. I guess the idea is way too outside the box to be implemented, as he dismissed it completely.
    Anyway, I believe someone above suggested contacting Major Nelson. I sent over an email last night and let him know that this relatively petty issue has made it all the way to the Consumerist because their customer service is completely incapable of resolving it. I’ll be sure to keep you posted with any response I get…

  34. scoosdad says:

    @hejustlaughs: @iEddie:
    Right, but the analogy here is the same as if you bought a telephone calling card using a major credit card. If only one of the phone calls from that card fails to go through but you got charged for it, do you really believe that the credit card company is going to want to get involved through a chargeback?

    Chargebacks are usually reserved for the full value of the original purchase. If credit card companies did chargebacks every time some little thing that was part of a larger purchase went wrong (not little to the OP, I’m sure), they’d discontinue the practice. He might get a chargeback on the original purchase of all the points, but if he’s already used any of them successfully, I’d say he stands little chance of getting a partial chargeback over this.

    It sucks that he’s caught in this Microsoft finger pointing though. I’m sure that if this follows past form, someone from Microsoft will read his post and about a month from now we’ll be reading about how they sent him a Bill Gates autographed copy of a disk with his game on it.

  35. jpdanzig says:

    Well, at least MS has offered to look into the problem. Sony won’t refund the $8 I plunked down on a “Flow” download after I realized how long (several nights)the download would take over my dialup connection. Way to p*ss off a customer!

  36. iEddie says:

    @scoosdad: A partial chargeback is possible.

  37. iEddie says:

    @jpdanzig: People still have dial-up?? /sarcasm Seriously though, most of the US can get DSL/cable/wireless.

  38. Hamm Beerger says:

    @Scazza: How would you suggest that Comcast look into it, then? I guess they should go back in time, hook up a sniffer, and figure out why his download failed.

    Also, Comcast does NOT do “network optimizations” that would cause a download (even a very large one) to fail. That’s bogus finger-pointing by Microsoft.

  39. ChuckECheese says:

    @iEddie: I couldn’t find data on how available broadband internet is, but only about 42% of the population has it. 73% of Americans have the internet available at home. Money is a factor for many who don’t get high-speed internet, as the average cost is still about $35-$40 a month.


  40. .Trenchant. says:


    Sorry to break it to you, but the content you purchase on your 360 is valid on ALL 360’s, so long as you use the Gamertag the purchase was originally made with. What it ISN’T valid for is other Gamertags on other consoles, however it WILL work with all Gamertags located on the original system it was purchased on.

  41. bwcbwc says:

    Comcast also sends false reset packets to the file server that appear to originate from the client. This would potentially cause the download to abort. This sounds like both ends of the transaction need to have software updated so that a disconnected download can be resumed in stead of hung.

  42. mac-phisto says:

    @Fawkes & .Trenchant.: you’re both correct, but in a way, so is dualityshift.

    the important aspect that you lose when you migrate to a larger drive (or get a replacement xbox) is the ability to use the content offline. only if you are signed into xbl are you able to access your downloads.

    from fawkes link:

    The hard drive transfer kit will move all data from your existing 20GB hard drive to your new 20GB or 120 GB hard drive, but due to data security provisions it cannot move the licenses associated with some content. This means that while all of your Xbox LIVE Arcade games and Xbox LIVE Marketplace TV shows will transfer, you will have to be connected to Xbox LIVE (to verify your identity) in order to access that content.This process is permanent-do not transfer your data if you wish to access it while offline.

  43. blackmage439 says:

    This sounds like business as usual at Microsoft, and especially their Xbox Live operations. Screw the customer, screw fair use, keep raising Gate’s stock portfolio 1/4 of a point for each hapless soul who becomes entombed within Microsoft’s DRM and faulty software.

    “Ok, people, move along! Nothing to see here!”

  44. Malicious A says:

    I sympathize with you.

    I had a similar problem when i was downloading the H3 Legendary Maps. I purchased points, then proceeded to start the download.

    It got to one percent but an hour later it was still at 1%. I restarted but it never went past 0%. So I did this multiple times with it sitting at 0% each time, finally let it sit all night. Went back to it in the morning and it was still at 0%.

    Started it one more time and went to work and came back an hour later on my break and they were all downloaded.


  45. @iEddie: Not so fast, my friend. There are still significant parts of the U.S. where broadband isn’t available, even in East Coast states like Maryland. Oh, to have a sensible government policy like South Korea…

  46. Leiterfluid says:

    Has he taken his Xbox to a friend’s house?

  47. Iskandr says:

    @iEddie: You obviously have no clue how the XBox Marketplace works. Once you have purchased game content you are free to download it as needed. So if you have to delete that nice little XBLA game, or that add-on, you can download it again later. Not sure if the XBox Originals, such as Ninja Gaiden Black, follow the same policy but I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

    The point of this is that somewhere while downloading the game, something gets jacked and it doesn’t download. It would have told him if he didn’t have enough space on his drive. If there is something wrong with things at MS’s end I’m sure there would be more complaints out there of people trying to download Ninja Gaiden Blackand it ending at a low percentage, and the XBox forums for the game would be flooded. And if it isn’t MS then it is probably the ISP.

  48. Eyerone says:

    This is actually pretty funny as this is the SAME situation that is currently happening to me as i’m trying to download the EXACT same game: Ninja Gaiden Black. The download seems to freeze @ 7% regardless of what i try to do. Initially, the download stopped because i did not have enough space on my hdd. It made me free up space before the download resumed. Fair enough, after about 5 minutes of hdd maintenance, the download continued and stopped at 7%. Eventually, XBOX live says “Cant download item”. After reading this story, I dont know what i’m going to do to remediate this issue. BTW, I’m using Cox as my ISP, if that makes any difference.

    This is a frustrating situation and based on this article, its not about to get any easier.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I had the same issue with Guilty Gear X2 #Reload. It would hang at either 69% or 74% every time. MS indicated it is a known issue with ISPs and there will be a fix for this soon. In any case, clearing my system cache (X, X, LB, RB, X, X from HDD options) and then downloading the file fresh was successful.

  50. XxFLIPMODExX says:

    Hello all i have had the same runarounds and this never ending cycle with xbox live customer support over my stolen or hacked xbox live gamertag. it has been a month since my account has been compromised and i still have yet to receive it.I have spent approximately 15 hours on the telephone with xbl customer support. Good luck with your case

  51. Anonymous says:

    My xbox live account is also “under investigation” and there is absolutely nothing I can do to get my account back. This article is true, the customer is better off NOT reporting problems to MS as ridiculous as it seems.