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Petition Require videogame publishers to keep games they have sold in a working state

Require publishers to leave videogames (and related game assets / features) they have sold to customers in a reasonably working state when support ends, so that no further intervention whatsoever is necessary for the game to function, as a statutory consumer right.

More details

Many videogames rely on servers. When these are shut down, games can be left unplayable where no action is taken to remove this dependency. We believe this is effectively robbing customers, leaving them with no recourse to retain their purchases. We have concerns that existing laws and agencies do not effectively solve this problem. Thus we believe government intervention is needed to stop this practice.

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Government responded

This response was given on 2 May 2024

Those selling games must comply with UK consumer law. They must provide clear information and allow continued access to games if sold on the understanding that they will remain playable indefinitely.

The Government recognises recent concerns raised by video games users regarding the long-term operability of purchased products.

Consumers should be aware that there is no requirement in UK law compelling software companies and providers to support older versions of their operating systems, software or connected products. There may be occasions where companies make commercial decisions based on the high running costs of maintaining older servers for video games that have declining user bases. However, video games sellers must comply with existing consumer law, including the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).

The CPRs require information to consumers to be clear and correct, and prohibit commercial practices which through false information or misleading omissions cause the average consumer to make a different choice, for example, to purchase goods or services they would not otherwise have purchased. The regulations prohibit commercial practices which omit or hide information which the average consumer needs to make an informed choice, and prohibits traders from providing material information in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner. If consumers are led to believe that a game will remain playable indefinitely for certain systems, despite the end of physical support, the CPRs may require that the game remains technically feasible (for example, available offline) to play under those circumstances.

The CPRs are enforced by Trading Standards and the Competition and Markets Authority. If consumers believe that there has been a breach of these regulations, they should report the matter in the first instance to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 (www.citizensadvice.org.uk). People living in Scotland should contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 (www.consumeradvice.scot). Both helplines offer a free service advising consumers on their rights and how best to take their case forward. The helplines will refer complaints to Trading Standards services where appropriate. Consumers can also pursue private redress through the courts where a trader has provided misleading information on a product.

The CRA gives consumers important rights when they make a contract with a trader for the supply of digital content. This includes requiring digital content to be of satisfactory quality, fit for a particular purpose and as described by the seller. It can be difficult and expensive for businesses to maintain dedicated support for old software, particularly if it needs to interact with modern hardware, apps and websites, but if software is being offered for sale that is not supported by the provider, then this should be made clear.

If the digital content does not meet these quality rights, the consumer has the right to a repair or replacement of the digital content. If a repair or replacement is not possible, or does not fix the problem, then the consumer will be entitled to some money back or a price reduction which can be up to 100% of the cost of the digital content. These rights apply to intangible digital content like computer software or a PC game, as well as digital content in a tangible form like a physical copy of a video game. The CRA has a time limit of up to six years after a breach of contract during which a consumer can take legal action.

The standards outlined above apply to digital content where there is a contractual right of the trader or a third party to modify or update the digital content. In practice, this means that a trader or third party can upgrade, fix, enhance and improve the features of digital content so long as it continues to match any description given by the trader and continues to conform with any pre-contract information including main characteristics, functionality and compatibility provided by the trader, unless varied by express agreement.

Consumers should also be aware that while there is a statutory right for goods (including intangible digital content) to be of a satisfactory quality, that will only be breached if they are not of the standard which a reasonable person would consider to be satisfactory, taking into account circumstances including the price and any description given. For example, a manufacturer’s support for a mobile phone is likely to be withdrawn as they launch new models. It will remain usable but without, for example, security updates, and over time some app developers may decide to withdraw support.

Department Culture, Media & Sport

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Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) has considered the Government’s response to this petition. They felt the response did not respond directly to the request of the petition. They have therefore asked the Government to provide a revised response.

When the Committee receives a revised response from the Government, we will publish this and share it with you.

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