The software industry is notoriously known to ship their products as early as possible – which is quite frequently way before maturity. That’s why their products have been equated with bananas: they ripen with the customer. But this annoying practice of debugging a product right in the market has now been confronted. In the UK, an amendment to the UK Consumer Rights Act has been made regarding digital-only purchases of videogames. Games are quite known for being shipped with buggy code or sold as offering features demonstrated in trailers, but not present in the final product. The game “The Witcher 3” provides a recent example, where graphics in trailers were superb, but obviously not available to common gaming PCs, where the game looked much less elegant and rather crude. So consumer protection stepped in. Gamers can now seek refunds or repairs from gaming companies if products are not working properly. The amendment is still criticized to be too vague in wording. This may be a reaction to the many difficulties in determining “proper functionality” of software, but is in turn also owed to the fact that it does not want to curb the videogames industry too much. A moderate first step seems more sensible, testing the waters for this kind of regulation. The regulation also made a smart little addendum, avoiding an obvious tactic for the gaming industry to ditch the new rules. It provided “consumers [the right] to challenge terms and conditions which are not fair or are hidden in the small print“.
If this proves helpful in protecting customers’ interests, the legislation may provide an example for a more wide-spread approach to curb banana sales in IT. If applied on other kinds of software, the amendment may even be of historic impact: Vendors would actually have to deliver quantum leaps, if they promise quantum leaps. Buggy, premature software must evolve to maturity to enter the market. And unfair and hidden terms and conditions are not considered valid per se anymore. Common sense would finally enter the software world.