WOW!

Video Game Law Blog

March 28, 2014

A court in Berlin has ruled that some provisions of the World of Warcraft Terms of Use violate German consumer protection laws and are void.

Consumer watchdog ‘vzbv’ brought the lawsuit against Blizzard. Under German law, certified watchdogs have standing to enforce consumer protection regulations, including the statutory framework for terms and conditions. This is possible without being party to a contract and therefore part of German tort law. Addressing customers in Germany establishes the jurisdiction of German courts and makes German law applicable to general terms and conditions. This is regardless of any choice of law therein. The World of Warcraft terms, as used by Blizzard’s French subsidiary for European customers, had determined French law.

The court ruled that Blizzard’s rights to terminate an account were too broad, and additionally, that limitations such as notices and warnings were too far reaching. Blizzard further set the bars too high for users wishing to terminate the service. The court especially held that the conditions of the service level agreement were too one-sided in favour of Blizzard.

Last but not least, the right to change the terms of service was not transparent enough in the view of the court. A common way to change terms of service under North American law is to simply publish new ones on the website. Under German law, an active notification of the individual customer is required. Additionally, the changes must not be of ‘disproportional disadvantage’ to the user. Blizzard had reserved the right to make sweeping changes to its service; a provision, which the court found, was not specific enough.

This decision is part of a series of cases and out of court settlements declaring particular provisions in the terms of services of big multinational companies void. The list includes Facebook, Google, Apple, Samsung, Valve, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft.

(This was a guest posting by Dr. Andreas Lober and Frank Falker, of Schulteriesenkampff)