I Bought My Bro A Downloadable Video Game He Already Owned, Can't Get My Money Back

Ario thought he had bought his brother a downloadable PC game via Steam, but was dismayed to find out his brother already owned the game, so he threw his money away. Ario has struggled to get a refund but his screams have gone unheard in cyberspace. He writes:

I have been a big fan of Steam and before this event and if I had an option between Steam, D2D, or Impulse I would almost have always have sided with Steam but after my most recent experience with them it is only now I realize how by using Steam I had trapped myself in a corner.

Earlier this week I had purchased a game that was on sale as an early gift for a family member to hold him off till his real one arrived late for Christmas. I didn’t know it at the time but because of some glitch in Steam’s systems the gifting failed but my CC was still charged and I was none the wiser. Since I told my brother all about the game, hyped him up, got him excited, but he never received it he ended up buying it for himself. I saw him playing it on Steam and thought all was well but after asking him how he liked my gift only to get a puzzled look in return.

Because of the way Steam works if you buy multiple copies of a game Steam simply eats your money for the 2nd copy and you get nothing instead of crediting your account or giving you an extra serial. I didn’t want that to happen so as soon as I learned about this I immediately contacted steam support for a refund. The first time I got a forum response because apparently their gift system fails often and resending is a common occurrence.

Took another support request for them to realize the issue was not in the fact I couldn’t send but the fact I couldn’t send and because of that he already owns the game I wanted to give him to which the customer service guy replied that they can’t give me a refund or even store credit because according to their Subscriber Agreement they don’t have to give me a return because I am not in the European Union which apparently has consumer protection laws that require 30 day grace period for returns.
So I am left in an odd situation. I paid for a game to be given to my brother, they failed to deliver my game, and now they are refusing to return my money too. Upon looking at the forums I found this wasn’t the first time this has happened either and when one guy tried to contact his credit card company for a refund they banned his account for “fraud” and disabled access to over $500 in games he had associated with his account once the chargeback was completed.

I didn’t want to risk losing some $300 games I had tied to my own account so I was saving my credit card company as a last resort. It took no less than 6 support messages exchanged to get my refund where they tried my patience continually pointing to how their Subscriber Agreement makes it OK that they can take my money, not deliver a product, refuse a refund, and as their forums implied, ban me if I protest.

I tried to remain polite through the entire process but they were totally unresponsive and the sheer frustration that some stupid EULA makes it ok to commit what in any other industry would be fraud infuriated me. By the 6th message I had given up and basically said that if they did not refund me for the product they failed to deliver I would file a complaint with the BBB, contact my local newspaper and tv station, and finally go ahead and contact my credit card company. My $300 in games be damned I as gonna do it and was already researching Small Claims Court as a solution if they took my games away after my chargeback.

I eventually got my money back but only after threatening them and the final line of my message reading:
“The money means nothing to me but at this point it is a matter of principle. What part of YOU RUINED CHRISTMAS don’t you understand?”
I was pretty worked up now that I look back at it. I realize they didn’t really ruin Christmas but at this point I was wiping tears of frustration out of my eyes as I clicked send on that last mail.

Even after I got my money back it seems they just had to have the last laugh. They emailed me “Please note in the future that Steam purchases, per the Steam Subscriber Agreement, are not refundable – this refund was issued as a one-time customer service gesture.” and just had to rub that stupid Subscriber Agreement into my face one last time.

I find it appalling that a company could have such utter contempt against their customers after they have their money locked in. Just because you are online, it is digital distribution, and we gotta agree to EULAs and Subscriber Agreements does not mean that you can take peoples money and do whatever you want because they agreed to your terms. At the end of the day they are still a retailer, I am still a customer, and taking money but not delivering a product is still fraud… Subscriber Agreement or not.

I know digital downloads are supposed to be the future and that I am not buying a product but rather a license but surely the fact it’s not physical and they got a EULA makes this kind of thing ok?

If you have any advice for Ario, please leave it in the comments.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.