Why Benjamin Bell Is Right To Sue Activision Blizzard For Consumer Fraud

A story has been making the rounds about a certain Benjamin Bell hiring a group out of Arizona to represent him in a case that brings a class action lawsuit against Activision and Blizzard over the use of authenticators and consumer protection for their games, mainly Diablo III. While Bell has been dismissed by some in the gaming community as an “attention seeker” and just looking for a “quick buck”, his case is entirely legitimate and should be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.

A lot of people aren't fond of how hard we came down on Blizzard over the Diablo III situations involving a number of different topics, but the goal never changed: Consumers paid for a service, there were a lot of stipulations involved that weren't readily made available for accessing the service and a lot of people lost money with no measure of recourse whatsoever, including the denial of refunds.

Bell's case -- in which he seeks class damages and an injunction to bar the defendants from "tacking on" undisclosed costs after customers have bought game -- isn't even the first lawsuit against Blizzard regarding the fiasco that has become Diablo III.

Back in June, South Korean computer cafe owners opted for a class action lawsuit against Blizzard due to the poor server availability for their customers. Since cafe visitors couldn't login to play Diablo III due to server errors, the visitors would leave, which in turn cost the cafe owners revenue. Even the Korean government came down on Blizzard, forcing them to offer refunds to consumers for Diablo III who couldn't login to play the game for one reason or another, which Blizzard initially did not want to offer.

Failing to provide advertised services while still taking money for that service is fraud, just the same as taking money for the service but failing to offer refunds while denying consumers use of that service is theft and fraud.

The always-on also backfired in both France and Germany, where on two separate occasions consumer rights advocacy groups came down on Blizzard for false advertisement and for not making it known that a persistent online connection would be required to play the game, as well as for not providing stable enough servers for users who paid to play the game but either couldn't play properly due to lag or because servers were unavailable.

For Bell, the lawsuit is specifically targeting the lack of security provided to consumers who were forced to play Diablo III online at all times and are required to log in to Battle.net, even if you want to play the game in single-player mode. This resulted in countless accounts being infiltrated, as many as several hundred every couple of hours, as reported, just shortly after the game launched.

Since every single Diablo III player had to be online to play the game, and Blizzard was introducing a Real-Money Auction House into the service, the amount of account infiltrations, breaches and hacks went right off the charts, as all types of nefarious individuals tried making a quick buck on any and everyone they could using a Battle.net account.

Now, Bell's lawsuit targets Blizzard's “negligence” in providing a much safer gaming atmosphere for consumers. I agree 100%. Not everyone reads gaming websites, not everyone visit forum boards and not everyone was informed about how dangerous it would be playing Diablo III through Battle.net. Hands down:

1.) Blizzard should have made it clear-as-day on the front of the box that an authenticator would be required to play the game safely.

2.) Clear instructions should have been included or listed in the box, on the box and before you install the game that a free mobile authenticator is available.

3.) For those who don't have mobile phones or didn't want to use a mobile phone authenticator, Blizzard should have initially made multi-tier login authentication available, something they didn't implement until after patch 1.0.2b, which is why account breaching was instantly and suddenly brought to a halt.

Had the game not had an always-on feature to protect the Real-Money Auction House, it's quite obvious a lot of accounts would never have been illicitly breached in the first place. Additional account compromises also could have been prevented with a multiplayer LAN mode, limiting the amount of users required to log into Battle.net and thus, limiting the potential risk they would have suffered at the hands of network scoundrels.

Of course, Blizzard's defense of this scenario was that majority of these account compromises occurred due to people using gold selling sites, as stated on the forums by community representative Kaltonis, saying...

The "hacking" ("compromising" is probably a better word, since no real "hacking" is going on) being seen in D3 is no different than what World of Warcraft players have been seeing for five years or so. The sad thing is, if no one bought game currency (gold, credits, whatever) from these third-party companies, then essentially no account compromises would be occurring. Compromises not done by gold selling companies are very rare indeed. They strip one player to sell to another, because it's much more efficient than "farming" gold. They still farm some of course, but they do it purely with compromised accounts.

I tend to doubt that Eurogamer's Christian Donlan was buying gold from grey market sellers, but then again maybe he was? His account was compromised over the weekend on the week of May 15th when Diablo III launched, so that means between May 15th and May 19th he visited and bought gold from a grey market seller. The same would have been the case for Examiner's Tara Swadley and Ars Technica's Kyle Orland. We also had a gold seller admit that one of his “mules” had been compromised, and he was part of a group that works in the grey market!

In simple terms, it's easy for Blizzard to pin the blame on consumers for being...well, consumers. But it doesn't excuse that additional tiers of authentication should have been implemented as a service policy from the start, if they were going to force all users to stay online in order to play the game.

If Benjamin and his crack team from Carney Williams Bates Pulliam & Bowman keep it focused on Blizzard's (ir)responsibility to protect consumers in an online atmosphere they designed, then they might be able to pull through.

Hopefully someone will also pick up the case of the Linux users, because as it stands Blizzard has yet to prove that all the Linux users they banned were actually cheaters, and if they can't prove that the Linux users requesting a refund are indeed cheating, then they've committed fraud and lawyers could easily clean up on Blizzard if they decided to pursue that course of action.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.