EA Is Being Sued In Canada Over Loot Boxes
The class action lawsuit over loot boxes in EA's sports games is similar to an ongoing suit in California.
A class action lawsuit has been brought against EA Games in Canada, with the plaintiffs essentially arguing that the games giant is profiting off an illegal gambling business by selling randomized loot boxes for cash. It's remarkably similar to a suit filed against EA in California this August, which alleged that FIFA's Ultimate Team mode is essentially gambling. Though you always get something from a loot box in this game, you don't know what it will be.
The Canadian suit was first spotted in a Vancouver "who's getting sued" column by The Patch Notes, a game industry-focused law blog. The Patch Notes has found and uploaded the full Notice of Civil Claim, which contains the full details on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is being brought against EA by two individuals who describe themselves as customers of EA. One is described to have purchased loot boxes for EA's Madden NFL games, while the other bought loot boxes for various NHL games. As a class action lawsuit, however, the action is being brought against EA on behalf of everyone who purchased loot boxes in any of EA's games since 2008--which may mean a hefty payout on EA's part if the suit is successful.
Like other class actions that have been brought around loot boxes, the lawsuit cites gambling-relevant sections of Canada's Criminal code to allege that loot boxes should also be considered a type of gambling. It also cites other international precedents, such as Japanese and Korean enforcement of loot box regulation, the Netherlands and Belgium's recent laws against loot boxes, and the loot box inquiries in progress in the UK and US. Their popularity exploded following Overwatch's release in 2016. In some cases, such as with Star Wars Battlefront II, public opinion soured on games enough for the loot boxes or progression systems to be modified. It may have also hurt initial sales of the game.
Note that, as a class action lawsuit, this suit is a civil suit and thus has no bearing on government regulation--though a successful result for the plaintiffs may put pressure on the government to introduce new legislation.
Canada currently has no laws around loot boxes, and has not yet taken steps to look into the issue. Other countries around the world have weighed in on the link between loot boxes and gambling, with countries including the Netherlands and Belgium taking steps to regulate loot boxes and others, such as New Zealand and France concluding that loot boxes do not constitute gambling.
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