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The Globe and Mail

GameStop ordered to reimburse customers for used games sold without online passes

A U.S. GameStop store in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan.

Dwight Burdette

Most of us have begrudgingly accepted that if we buy our games used, we now have to cough up an extra $10 or $15 for a code that will let us play online, since the one in the box will likely have been redeemed by the game's original owner.

Californian gamers are a little more feisty.

U.S. law firm Baron and Budd has filed and won a lawsuit against GameStop in the District Court for Northern California that requires the world's largest game retailer to post visible signs explaining that consumers will need to pay extra to play some used games online. The suit also includes a class action settlement that offers reimbursement to people who have already bought these games. They're eligible to receive a total of $15 in a mixture of cheques and coupons for each game purchased.

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"We are pleased that as a result of this lawsuit, we were able to obtain complete restitution for consumers, with actual money paid out to people who were harmed by GameStop's conduct," said Mark Pifko, Baron and Budd attorney and counsel in the lawsuit.

The success of this legal action may lead Baron and Budd to litigate in other states, petitioning GameStop to enact similar warning policies and offer compensation to those who've already purchased used games without online passes for near-new prices.

Of course, this won't change the bottom line for avid game traders. While reports suggest Gamestop stores in California have already begun lowering the price of used games that require an online pass, they're also likely paying less for those games when taken in trade. That means whatever Californian gamers are now saving when buying used, they're losing when trading.

Publishers, meanwhile, are laughing all the way to the bank, as more gamers are likely to simply pony up for fresh copies and avoid the confusion and hassle altogether – which is exactly what companies like Electronic Arts hoped would happen when they came up with the concept of online passes a couple of years ago.

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