Wednesday, 29 April 2020 10:55

Call of Duty false bans: ACCC issues guidance to Activision Blizzard customers Featured


Issues with Activision Blizzard’s bulk-banning of 70,000 players for cheating are starting to snowball.

Mainstream Media is starting to pick up that many of the 70,000 players, recently banned from Call of Duty “for cheating,” are innocent but have been left with no recourse. This has led to more and more isolated and distressed players, from all over the world, coming together on social media, Activision Support Forum threads, and Discord.

The Modern Warfare subreddit has let another major thread develop (after mods previously removed some discussions) which details how one teenager, under lockdown, had been prohibited from playing the game with his friends on consoles and now was feeling isolated because he’s lost one of the few means to interact with them. His play statistics are not those of a cheater and yet a commenter in thread provided evidence that, despite his outlandish stats getting reported “300 times per day,” he’s never been banned – pouring yet more doubt upon Activision’s claims that it’s anti-cheat systems are working and that the much-ridiculed process of reporting cheaters does anything proscriptive, whatsoever.

Government agency weighs in

We asked the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – Australia’s version of America’s FTC and the UK’s OFT Citizen's Advice offices) what customer’s rights were if they’d paid for a product but weren’t able to use it or get a refund. At present Activision Blizzard’s justification is that there is a breach of Terms Of Use. However, an ACCC spokesperson told us that:

Under the Australian Consumer Law a consumer has a right to undisturbed possession of the goods, subject to reasonable restrictions or limitations. This applies regardless of where the company is based.

Any restrictions or limitations imposed on businesses on use are covered by the unfair contract term provisions.

An unfair contract term is one that a court decide causes a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of both the company and the consumer, or is not reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the company.

In deciding whether a term is unfair, a court must consider how transparent the term is, as well as the overall rights and obligations of each party under the contract. For example, whether there are any review or appeal mechanisms for unilateral decisions made by a business.

Once a contract term is declared void by a court, it cannot be enforced by the company.

Considering that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare costs between $90 and 120 – and some banned players have spent hundred’s more dollars on (largely cosmetic) in-game purchases – it appears that the actions of Activision-Blizzard are against the law, but the courts will need to decide.

With Call of Duty being one of the World’s Most Valuable Media Franchises, individuals successfully going up against such a corporate behemoth might seem fanciful, Biblical and daunting (it’s also, literally, the plotline of one of the greatest Australian movies ever made, by the way). However, it’s not without real-world precedent as the ACCC’s 2017 victory over Valve and its refusal to offer refunds, attests to. We’re waiting to see whether the ACCC will take action on this matter itself. However, if you’re an Australian Citizen who has been affected, you can contact the ACCC, here.

Activision Blizzard stay silent

ITWire is still waiting for Activision Blizzard to respond to its questions, at the time of writing, but we will continue to investigate.

However, this will provide little comfort to many in the Call of Duty-playing community who are still wondering how Activision Blizzard (and developer Infinity Ward)’s, anti-cheat system can overlook such obvious cheating behaviour and statistics while delivering such a ham-fisted banning system.

Related: Permanently banned from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for no reason
Related: Call of Duty bulk bans riddled with false positives & may be illegal

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Nick Ross

Nick Ross is a veteran technology journalist who has contributed to many of Australia's top technology titles and edited several of them. He was the launch editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online Technology section.



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