Source: News by Emma Kent, Reporter. Updated on 22 October 2020
It seems EA is once again facing legal trouble for its use of loot boxes, as the company is now facing a class action lawsuit in Canada.
As spotted by esports and gaming law blog The Patch Notes, the lawsuit was filed on 30th September by two individuals based in British Columbia and Ontario, Mark Sutherland and Shawn Moore. The suit argues that loot boxes constitute gambling, and that EA is operating an unlicensed gambling business in breach of the Canadian Criminal Code. It also argues EA is liable to the plaintiffs under common law (including unjust enrichment) and has breached consumer protection statutes such as the BC Consumer Protection Act by failing to publish the odds of winning prizes and tying loot boxes to gameplay progression.
The Patch Notes explains that because this is a class action, everyone in Canada who has bought loot boxes from EA since 2008 is covered by the suit, and the filing comes with a list of over 60 titles including EA’s sports franchises, Mass Effect, Need for Speed, Battlefield, Apex Legends and more. The plaintiffs are seeking everything EA made through loot boxes since 2008 in damages, so if the suit was to be successful, it’s safe to say EA would have to pay a whole lot of money.
The question is, then, what are the chances this will succeed? The plaintiffs are apparently represented by a reputable firm in British Columbia, which has experience in going after large corporations. If you remember disagreements on the definition of as gambling in the UK, however, you may recall the Gambling Commission said loot boxes cannot be defined as gambling under current laws as prizes cannot be “cashed out”, and it seems this lawsuit could run into similar problems in Canada. We’ll have to see how it plays out in court, and the next stage in the process is for EA to file a response, and then wait for the court to determine whether the case can proceed as a class action.
This isn’t the first class action lawsuit EA has faced over loot boxes this year, as a similar lawsuit targeting FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode was filed in California back in August (via VGC). As for legislation on loot boxes in the UK, the government last month opened a call for evidence on player and game organisation experiences of loot boxes, which remains open until 22nd November. You can get your thoughts in here.