ECA Responds to Accusations of Wrongdoing

ECA Responds to Accusations of Wrongdoing

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One would think that an organization which exists to protect consumers like the ECA wouldn't try to scam its members, but that's exactly what a vocal minority is claiming.

A post at The Consumerist said that the Entertainment Consumers Association has made it nearly impossible to cancel membership with the organization. The accusation was that the ECA website no longer offered the ability to turn off automatically renewing a membership and that this was done in response to members being frustrated with the lack of Amazon discounts which were promised to new members. Also, the ECA has removed from the website the phone number previously used to cancel membership. The only way to currently opt out of the organization is to write a letter to ECA and wait 30 days. ECA president, Hal Halpin, responded with a statement today which did not openly deny the accusations but provided some compelling reasons for the actions of the advocacy group.

The ECA offered a promotion for a free trial membership linked to an article Halpin wrote this September which promised, among other discounts, a 10% discount at Amazon for all videogames. Many new members flocked to the site but were disappointed to find out that the Amazon discount was discontinued. One member wondered if the recent inability to end memberships was added in response to a rash of cancellations of unhappy members.

According to Hal Halpin, it was some of these new members which spoiled the Amazon discount. "These new members were coming from websites and forums that were solely promoting the coupon code, sans important reading," he said. "Within a relatively short period of time, some of the new members found an exploit in one of our partners' promotional codes and spread the word." The partner, which may or may not have been Amazon, decided to terminate the offer.

He admitted that auto-renewing membership is a part of their business model and was unlikely to change. Halpin added that the need to cancel by mail was "due to a small but active number of members who were repeatedly joining, leaving and re-joining the organization - in an effort to exploit our member benefits and unduly take advantage of our partners' generous offers." The ECA had to deal with these exploiters contacting the Better Business Bureau claiming that they were the victims of fraud, which was "in effect committing fraud themselves."

The ECA states that its mission is to empower consumers of interactive entertainment to effect change and that it "opposes legislative efforts to unconstitutionally restrict access to video games." The ECA is the publisher of GamePolitics.com, a respected voice in the game community.

Even though the ECA may have had good reasons for restricting consumer's control over their membership, the policy doesn't seem to be in line with the organization's philosophy.

Source: The Consumerist

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Well, that's business. People will do anything to save money, and the business will do everything to make it.

I can see why they'd do that. Still, though, I'd have my card cancelled. I can't be billed anymore and I can just get a new one free of charge in all less then an hour.

Yeah I'm a member of the community chapters for the ECA and the Amazon discount code abuse really caused a false increase in the amount of "members" the ECA was getting. People who abused the discount code were selling them all over Ebay and other websites so while at the same time there were a bunch of "people" joining the ECA for the wrong reasons there were also that same "people" leaving within the hour.

I would easily suspect that the group complaining are the same people who tried and have abused the system where guys like me had to go through our member rosters and make sure the people who joined our chapters were actual people instead of make believe people.

While that's true, the ECA's response is as anti-consumer as anything done by the companies they claim to be representing the consumers against. Had they simply come out and said what they were doing and why, rather than foster ill-will, this never would have made it onto all of the major consumer and gaming news sites.

Here's a hint to the ECA: Don't try to screw with gamers. We're smarter than you, and we're *FAR* better publicists than you. If you're honest with us, most of us will respect you. If you're not honest and open with us, then we don't really care what your motivation was. What the hell good is a "consumer association" if it screws with the very consumers it claims to represent?

Greg Tito:
He admitted that auto-renewing membership is a part of their business model and was unlikely to change. Halpin added that the need to cancel by mail was "due to a small but active number of members who were repeatedly joining, leaving and re-joining the organization - in an effort to exploit our member benefits and unduly take advantage of our partners' generous offers." The ECA had to deal with these exploiters contacting the Better Business Bureau claiming that they were the victims of fraud, which was "in effect committing fraud themselves."

i didn't realize an advocacy group needed a business plan, but w/e. there's plenty of other ways to combat fraud without screwing over your honest members.

Don't give out the membership benefits until they pay the dues for a month or so. Or just don't bribe people to join your organization in the first place.

Now...that is shocking.

Goes to prove cant trust any company out there, at all.

Write a letter and wait 30 days to cancel!?

Ok, they shouldn't be featured in the news, they should be motherF--king CARPET BOMBED!

I mean what the hell!?

That is just not alright

Just report it to the bank as fraud, in most states if you can sign up online you must be able to cancel either online or over the phone.

I really love the outrage from these posters here. It seems they didn't read the article all the way through and pick up on the part where people were abusing the ECA's membership benefits which caused the sharp rise of paid memberships and at the same time canceling memberships.

When fraud happens on such a massive scale it is going to be hard to implement a new system that will allow members to cancel their yearly membership.

The current solution is perfectly fine and is accessible to everyone. Everyone in the United States can use the US postal service and mail a letter to cancel their yearly membership. Is it going to be permanent? Very doubtful.

Implementing a new electronic system that will allow members to cancel their membership online is a lot more complicated and will take time to build a new system to prevent fraud that was committed by people who wanted to abuse the ECA benefits.

The ECA is a victim and being the victim caused this current news story to exist.

So you could just join the ECA for free and get the discount without having to pay the membership fee first? Now that's just stupid.

CD-R:
So you could just join the ECA for free and get the discount without having to pay the membership fee first? Now that's just stupid.

No that would be ridiculous. You have to pay for the yearly membership to get the discount code. People who bought memberships would sell the Amazon discount code for profit when the rules state that it is meant for the individual only.

I guess the ECA should have done something different instead of offering a multi-purpose code. It's their own fault for not having the foresight to see something like that happening, which pretty much happens with all coupon codes on the net.

In any case, if the membership fee is assessed yearly, people just need to suck it up and send in the cancellation request. It's not like they will be charged anymore money because they have to wait 30 days. How long does it take to write a letter and put it in the mailbox? Like two minutes?

cobra_ky:
Or just don't bribe people to join your organization in the first place.

That, right there. They ran the promotion, people took advantage of it, now both sides look like douchebags.

Vern:

cobra_ky:
Or just don't bribe people to join your organization in the first place.

That, right there. They ran the promotion, people took advantage of it, now both sides look like douchebags.

It is funny they targetted the people who signed up on their site. Once the code is out and gone, reacting like this is only going to destroy their current userbase. Their reaction was like adding DRM with an update, rather than doing it properly in the first place. Kinda funny.

Tenmar:
I really love the outrage from these posters here. It seems they didn't read the article all the way through and pick up on the part where people were abusing the ECA's membership benefits which caused the sharp rise of paid memberships and at the same time canceling memberships.

When fraud happens on such a massive scale it is going to be hard to implement a new system that will allow members to cancel their yearly membership.

The current solution is perfectly fine and is accessible to everyone. Everyone in the United States can use the US postal service and mail a letter to cancel their yearly membership. Is it going to be permanent? Very doubtful.

Implementing a new electronic system that will allow members to cancel their membership online is a lot more complicated and will take time to build a new system to prevent fraud that was committed by people who wanted to abuse the ECA benefits.

The ECA is a victim and being the victim caused this current news story to exist.

Yes the ECA was a victim here, but they were also asking for it when they didn't implement any insight, then treated all their members like drooling retards and criminals by not releasing a statement on the reason for the changes, as well as going full bore to making quitting the membership non-user friendly. They basically behaved just like a games publisher, maybe even worse than one, which the ECA claims to work to keep behaved in defense of consumers. Were they right to take these steps? Sure, it is their choice to, unless it was an action that should have been up to the paying members. Could they have done more in defense of their members? YES. For one they shouldn't have reduced themselves to petty beggars by even implementing this offer. All it was was a petty attempt at raising funds, which turned around and bit them in the ass. If they wanted to show appreciation to members, then they should have offered such a promotion to long time members, and make it clear that such loyalty will always be held in such esteem. But buying even first time memberships with these offers was dumb, hipocritical, and flawed, basically reducing the message that the ECA is supposed to be making.
I imagine ECA has done a lot to keep computer gaming as well as other media we enjoy strong and out there, keeping it available to all of us. But this incident will be long and hard to forget, and I am hoping that the idiots who thought this promotion up are being given positions better suited to their skills, for the members' sake.

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Cookie for the reference.

Tenmar:
I really love the outrage from these posters here. It seems they didn't read the article all the way through and pick up on the part where people were abusing the ECA's membership benefits which caused the sharp rise of paid memberships and at the same time canceling memberships.

When fraud happens on such a massive scale it is going to be hard to implement a new system that will allow members to cancel their yearly membership.

The current solution is perfectly fine and is accessible to everyone. Everyone in the United States can use the US postal service and mail a letter to cancel their yearly membership. Is it going to be permanent? Very doubtful.

Implementing a new electronic system that will allow members to cancel their membership online is a lot more complicated and will take time to build a new system to prevent fraud that was committed by people who wanted to abuse the ECA benefits.

The ECA is a victim and being the victim caused this current news story to exist.

Seems to ME that what Hal is saying is VERY similar to when software companies say "Anyone who complains about DRM is probably a pirate anyway, so don't listen to them."

Besides what everyone else has already mentioned (that another solution would be better, they should have been honest, they should have sent an organization wide email telling us about the change), the one thing that doesn't quite add up to me:

"If the amazon codes are now gone, why would they still have people mass joining and quitting?"

I could see people taking advantage of the amazon codes this way, but many of the other codes they offer are not nearly as compelling. I don't think this is an issue they are still facing since they discontinued amazon a couple months ago. All this is preventing now are people leaving.

I originally signed up for the amazon code, but I didn't abuse it; and I was going to stay a member an extra year anyway for the hell of it. But now I'm not nearly as certain.

I appreciate the company's concerns, but making my life more difficult when I was a legit member/customer of their business just leaves the same bad taste in my mouth that most DRM leaves.

Tenmar:

CD-R:
So you could just join the ECA for free and get the discount without having to pay the membership fee first? Now that's just stupid.

No that would be ridiculous. You have to pay for the yearly membership to get the discount code. People who bought memberships would sell the Amazon discount code for profit when the rules state that it is meant for the individual only.

If you are going to defend the ECA here you should probably get your facts straight first.

First, Hal Halpin wrote an article for Game Informer and GAVE AWAY FREE MEMBERSHIP CODES for the ECA in that article. He also ADVERTISED the amazon.com benefit for being member. So yes people could join for free and get the member benefits.

People also got free membership codes at PAX. And of note Penny Arcade has already distanced themselves from the ECA.

Second, you fail to mention the ECA's shady TOS changes where they failed to notify ANYONE of these changes such as the only way to cancel a membership is by snail mail. You also did not state that in those same terms they specifically state that they cannot guarantee processing your request unless you PAY for certification of mail and Signature on delivery.

You also did not mention that in their TOS they say that if a credit card is expired they will CHANGE THE EXPIRATION DATE (without your consent) so that the account can be charged further.

This is just the tip of the iceberg people.

If you really want to know more I will direct you here http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244949

Get your facts straight before you start shilling. If you can't see any faults here there is something very wrong with you.

TJ79:

If you are going to defend the ECA here you should probably get your facts straight first.

First, Hal Halpin wrote an article for Game Informer and GAVE AWAY FREE MEMBERSHIP CODES for the ECA in that article. He also ADVERTISED the amazon.com benefit for being member. So yes people could join for free and get the member benefits.

Second, you fail to mention the ECA's shady TOS changes where they failed to notify ANYONE of these changes such as the only way to cancel a membership is by snail mail. You also did not state that in those same terms they specifically state that they cannot guarantee processing your request unless you PAY for certification of mail and Signature on delivery.

You also did not mention that in their TOS they say that if a credit card is expired they will CHANGE THE EXPIRATION DATE (without your consent) so that the account can be charged.

This is just the tip of the iceberg people.

If you really want to know more I will direct you here http://www.cheapassgamer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=244949

Get your facts straight before you start shilling.

Wow thanks for being civil TJ79. Way to go out of your way insulting me while explaining the change.

However realize that no organization is perfect and will have its flaws. The amazon code debacle really hurt us but we can only improve and move on.

Right now the ECA for the past 2 months have a fall/winter program in which college students that have a .edu college accepted e-mail address is able to sign up for the ECA for their first year free. There have also been many a occasion where people who would like to have a trial membership will be offered. I see the Crackdown code that gives a free year membership. This trial membership allows those who have a passion for gaming or would like to get involved with their fellow gaming community in their local area or get politically involved to see what the ECA can do for them.

As for the cost, remember the ECA is a non-profit organization. The revenue they collect comes primarily from memberships. The money that is earned is used to create a credible organization that is able to speak from a platform of authority to the federal and state government. From letter writing campaigns to attending discussions on ESRB ratings to advocating net neutrality is all done thanks to the members.

I realize that a lot of older members feel ripped off having to pay fifteen dollars where some members get to try their first year for free due to a promotion. Also on the other side there are a lot of younger members who signed up within the past three months(they are still on the free trial) and find out after the Amazon code abuse the only way to resign is using actual mail(which would cost to the new member fifty cents) find the resignation to be archaic and "deceptive". So what we have on both sides of those that dissent not looking at the ECA as an organization fighting for consumer rights but instead for discount codes that the ECA has worked hard to get to increase the value much like a cell phone company that offers roll-over minutes. The perks should be recognized for what they are, a luxury where the members that donate that fifteen dollars on a yearly basis will be able to receive a more direct and instant gratification for putting their money towards a good cause that will advocate on their behalf and their passion.

I know from being a gamer that it is easy for us to be cynical after someone decided to teabag us during a match or fling insults. It is all too easy to be outraged and demonize organizations where we the community have overall been treated badly by society. However deciding to attack our own kind where those few will dedicate their time and effort to build a community within their local area, attend expos and events to reach out to their fellow gamer, and attend meetings with the federal and state government advocating laws that would benefit the gaming community is self-destructive and will leave us with no voice.

So TJ79. I hope this will make you understand that the ECA isn't perfect and will always strive to improve it is important when speaking for gamer's rights and protecting consumers from bad business practices the ECA is one of the few voices out there. If donating 15 dollars a year means that there will be a non-profit organization that will always be striving to fight against bad laws, promote good laws, and offer some small discounts then I hope those who see the ECA as more than just discount codes but fighting for our future.

I'm not sure how I insulted you unless you are referring to my "shilling" comment. But you were obviously speaking without knowing all the facts.

With that said I apologize for the shill comment as that is not what you were doing per the definition of the word.

After reading the rest of your response I can agree with some of it. And you are right no business or organization is perfect. But it is the perspective of many that the practices being used by the ECA do not shed a favorable light on them considering what it is they do stand for.

It's a hard pill to swallow when the President of the association speaks out against another company for changing EULAs or Terms of Service and how that practice is anti-consumer, only to turn around and do it to it's own members. It just looks bad, and I don't see how anyone can argue against that. In this case it is very easy to be cynical just because of these actions by the ECA.

The changing of expired credit card info to continue billing without the card holders consent is very questionable if not unethical or illegal despite the user agreeing to it in the TOS. There is precedent for this being ruled as such.

According to moderators on the ECA forums these things are going to addressed, so hopefully ECA makes it right in the end. But their credibility has taken a hit regardless.

Tenmar:
Yeah I'm a member of the community chapters for the ECA and the Amazon discount code abuse really caused a false increase in the amount of "members" the ECA was getting. People who abused the discount code were selling them all over Ebay and other websites so while at the same time there were a bunch of "people" joining the ECA for the wrong reasons there were also that same "people" leaving within the hour.

I would easily suspect that the group complaining are the same people who tried and have abused the system where guys like me had to go through our member rosters and make sure the people who joined our chapters were actual people instead of make believe people.

I'm sorry but I had to reply to your post. I'm currently a paying ECA subscriber and have been since May of 09. Honestly, I need to ask if you know why changes to the TOS were made with out contacting its members via an email. I asked my cousin to join when the memberships were available for free and when the amazon coupons were discontinued he wanted to quit and used the button to unsubscribe from automated billing. If this button was never a viable option to cancel membership or stop credit card charges why wasn't he contacted. In the first place it never made any sense to have a button to unsubscribe from automated billing when it supposedly never worked (why put it there?). I had to read it on Kotaku and let him know he had to send a letter to cancel the membership.

I know ECA has mentioned the requirement to quit the organization via snail mail was to prevent abuse from people joining and quitting, but if they stopped the promotion code for amazon and codes to join the ECA for free wouldn't that solve the problem right there? People no longer had any incentive to join for the amazon code and if it was no longer free to join the ECA it would cost $20 to join and quit everytime.

So why wouldn't a phone call or email work now as it has in the past? Let the people who aren't serious about the organization leave and keep the real members who care about gaming rights. I can't see this whole mess as anything but to make it harder for people to quit and take their $20. I regret telling my cousin about the ECA. This makes the organization look really shady and I'm not sure if I want to support this kind of organization.

The ECA just updated its FAQ...I would guess the TOS will be revised (again) soon as well. Looks like progress is being made.

TJ79:
The ECA just updated its FAQ...I would guess the TOS will be revised (again) soon as well. Looks like progress is being made.

All the better and I agree with ya TJ79. Going to be some hard trials but I'm sure their staff will figure this out.

I'm just one of the community members that host game nights allowing people to get together where just like here at the Escapist we can all share our passion and get to know each other so we don't have to play online games alone and get out of the house and hang out with other people.

Also TJ79 you should consider sticking around here as well. If you love to play games and get some news and entertainment within the games industry this is a great site. Welcome to the Escapist.

I've been around for a while. Have just never posted before. I've been a fan of zero-punctuation for a long time.

 

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