As reported by Kotaku, a Star Citizen backer named Streetroller was able to secure the $3,000 he gave to the game after a long battle that took place via emails and other communications. The situation gets complicated, as it was reported a while back that the Terms of Service for the game were changed to make it nearly impossible to refund your crowdfunding pledge. One of the ways people have found around this is just not agreeing to these new rules. Streetroller documented his journey via screencaps, presenting the full story as it happened. With the help of the LA Attorney General and the FTC, Streetroller got his money back.
June 14th. Streetroller writes his email to Star Citizen‘s development company asking for a refund.
To Cloud Imperium Games and / or Robert Space Industries:
Because of various changes of policy by Cloud Imperium Games or Roberts Space Industries, the product remains unfulfilled and no longer constitutes the product(s) I originally purchased.
To bring this to a resolution, I am requesting a full refund.
Next day. Roberts Space Industries replies back. They decline his request, outlining the terms of service as part of their reasoning.
You made your pledge to the crowd funding campaign to raise funds for the development of ‘Star Citizen’. When you contributed your pledge it was applied to the building of the game and the team and resources needed to make it happen. The funds are not idly maintained in a bank account for months or years in case someone wants his/her money back. Cloud Imperium Games has been working diligently on the development of the game and has published extensive information on the development process on its website at robertspaceindustries.com. We are very serious about accomplishing what we set out to do, which is to build a great game. We endeavor to keep everyone informed and educated on the progress of game development and what is accomplished with their support: reports, updates and web shows have been made available regularly, and our first game play offerings came online as early as fall of 2013. These offerings have been progressively and incrementally expanded over time to share access to the work in progress. We have created substantial foundation for the game, and early release versions are currently available.
As noted above, your payment was a deposit to be used for the ‘Game Cost’ as defined in your crowd funding pledge agreement […], and the deposit has since been “earned by CIG and become non-refundable” since it was “used for the Game Cost…”. You also agreed to “irrevocably waive any claim for refund of any deposit amount that has been used for the Game Cost and Pledge Item Cost …”. The only exception would be a return of unearthed funds remaining in case of an abandonment of the project; this exception does not apply as we have not abandoned development. If you pledged on Kickstarter, you agreed to these terms when you transferred you pledge account to robertsspaceindustries.com.
Same day as RSI’s reply, Streetroller puts his foot down on the matter. He explains to them that he didn’t agree to these terms of service, nor did he want to play what the developers considered to be a complete game build.
I have not agreed to your terms of service, nor do I have any desire to play a product described by your development team as an “alpha” product.
I do not recognize your terms of service, as according to a recent case in Washington, a person who “crowdfunds” a project has the same legal benefits as any consumer of a product.
This means if I agree to a specific date of delivery (in this case, May 31st, 2016) and you fail to deliver a product by that date, I am entitled to a refund. It may have been the “community’s declared desire to have the initial release version of the game developed to a much greater depth, detail, and fidelity than contemplated originally upon start of the campaign’, but it was not mine.
You may not be beholden to a publisher, but you are beholden to me as a consumer.
In the terms of service to which I am referring states: “Accordingly, you agree that any unearned portion of your pledge shall not be refundable until and unless RSI has failed to deliver the relevant pledge items and/or the Game to you within eighteen (18) months after the estimated delivery date.”
The estimated delivery date was November, 2014.
June 16th, RSI replies back with a firm refusal to refund.
I am sorry to hear that you are not happy with the outcome, however I am afraid that we cannot offer you a refund since all of your pledges are outside of the statutory 14 day grace period, regardless.
In response, Streetroller steps it up a notch, and decides to tell third-parties about the situation.
I know my rights, and I won’t let any company – even on I may have liked – to take $3,000 from me.
I’m informing you that I’m filing with the FTC, DCBA, and IC3.
I’ll also be contacting the attorney general of Los Angeles and filing fraud claims on Paypal.
That’s when things get interesting. He also told Amazon Payments about it, and was able to get a $900 partial refund from them. Streetroller posted the message he got in his email from them on June 23rd.
After contacting the Los Angeles District Attorney, Streetroller was forwarded their response on the issue after they got involved in the matter.
The most relevant part of it is as follows.
Contrary to complainant’s statements, terms to this effect have been in the ToS and/or Commercial Terms ever since Star citizen’s crowd funding began. None of the revisions to our ToS have affected complainant’s position in the regard which is also is in line with typical crowd funding terms as they can be found for example on Kickstarter, the world’s most preeminent crowd funding site. In accordance with the above, complainant’s pledge has been used for the game development, and therefore has been earned and is no longer returnable to complainant at this point.
Ortwin Freyermuth, who serves as legal counsel for the Star Citizen project, misled the attorney general there. Despite the fact the terms of service policy was a key part of the back and forth between RSI and Streetroller, Ortwin didn’t acknowledge these changes to the attorney general. If one were to compare even the very previous terms of service to the current one, the relevant changes are clearly visible.
So what happened was Streetroller won in the end. In fact, he was contacted by an LA County Investigator on July 11th, who was curious in hearing more of his story.