Class Action Against SquareEnix Targets More Than Fees

It’s been on the major news sites that a class action has been levied against SquareEnix for fees associated with Final Fantasy XI, the company’s MMORPG. However, there’s more to it if you look at the filing posted by GamePolitics.

News sources have been quick to point out that the monthly fee is clearly stated on the Square website, as most MMORPGs with a monthly subscription plan do. Looking at the pleading, though, the main monthly fee isn’t the crux of the complaint. I think the stronger complaint lays with the penalties and interest for late payments, and ‘charges while the online game account is suspended,’ if that means the monthly fee is continuing to toll. This case may not be about the base monthly fee at all, but rather what happens if you don’t pay.

More troubling still are facts 11 i and vi, which essentially challenge the software licensing model as a whole. Fact 11i reads ‘Licensing of the online games software disguised as a sale;’ while count 11vi reads ‘Termination of the right to use the online games for late payment of fees.’ To me, this reads that they’re challenging traditional software retail and MMO sales as a deceptive trade practice because buying the game doesn’t actually purchase a copy of the game nor the right to play. The latter is certainly the weaker point, as I’m fairly certain the box references the required monthly subscription. Normally I wouldn’t put stock in an attempt to redefine the entire software industry, especially in California where so much software is developed, but the California courts have been known to issue unusual decisions and have long favored consumer protection.

Count vii, which contests the terms of use, seems like a dead end unless the entire software licensing model is shot down by the court. The Terms of Use are an extension of the license, and if the license is upheld, then the terms of use will be. Other cases have failed to strike down either (other than with regard to things like arbitration provisions), so I doubt this will be successful.

It will certainly be interesting to see the claims in the suit fleshed out further. Based on the information available, this looks like a case of ‘I bought the game, didn’t pay my monthly fees, and are mad that you won’t let me play and are charging me interest on the fees I owe you.’

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About Mark Methenitis

Mark Methenitis is an attorney in Dallas Texas. Mark received his Juris Doctorate and his Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University and his Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas.

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