Two Canadians are taking EA to court over loot boxesPlatforms: All
Two Canadian men have filed a class action lawsuit against EA, alleging that the American company have broken the country's Criminal Code with their use of loot boxes in their games.
First reported by Marius Adomnica in The Patch Notes, a "Gaming and Esports Law Blog", the civil case has been brought forward by Mark Sutherland and Shawn Moore, who are based in Ontario and British Columbia. The suit instigated by the two individuals seeks “damages for unjust enrichment arising from defendants’ operation of an illegal gambling system through the sale of so-called ‘loot boxes’ in popular video games.”
The main argument of the plaintiffs centres around "the way in which EA has implemented loot boxes, including not publishing the odds of winning prizes, and making using them semi-necessary for progression, breached various consumer protection statutes, including the BC Consumer Protection Act."
Adomnica points out that as the case brought is a class action lawsuit, the two men "are suing not only on their own behalf but on behalf of everyone else in Canada who bought any loot boxes in any games published by EA since 2008." As EA doesn't have a licence to operate gambling within Canada, EA will have to defend and try to argue that case that loot boxes do not constitute gambling in Canada.
While gamers might expect a civil suit, so there are no criminal charges, brought by two men to be dealt with comfortably by a company as large as EA, Adomnica notes in his blog that, "This is not a self-represented litigant filing a nuisance lawsuit, but a well-pled claim brought by an experienced legal team who specializes in going after large corporations for stuff like this.” This might not be as straight forward as these things tend to be for a company that has come under fire in recent years for their use of microtransactions in AAA games especially.
While Sutherland and Moore specifically mention the Madden and NHL games developed and published by the American company, the suit could impact every EA game that has loot boxes in them, including one game that has caught the attention of British lawmakers recently: Fifa.
A consultation is currently underway in the UK, "loot boxes in video games - a call for evidence" which you can contribute to here. You have until the 22nd of November to contribute to submit evidence to the inquiry, which follows "a commitment made by the government to to review the Gambling Act 2005 with a particular focus on tacking issues around online loot boxes."