View Full Version : News EA Forum Bans Still Affecting Games

11-14-2011, 10:40 AM
I was twittered this article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun:


EA Forum Bans Still Affecting Games


By John Walker on November 14th, 2011 at 11:53 am.

You may remember, back in March this year, a story (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/11/ea-forum-bans-can-lock-you-out-of-games/) that threw EA forum user Arno into the limelight. Having violated the rules of the EA forums he was given a 72 hour ban on his forum account. But found that he was also unable to play online with any of his games attached to his EA gaming account, nor activate his single-player Dragon Age II. This led to quite the brouhaha, which eventually resulted in EA’s announcing (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/11/ea-retracts-game-ban-for-forum-violation/) that the ban had been “a mistake”, and the promise that not only would Arno’s gaming rights be restored, but they would fix the issue to prevent this happening again. They haven’t.

We are receiving information from a number of gamers who have received forum bans for a variety of reasons who are finding they’re unable to play Battlefield 3 (or indeed any other game tied into the EA user account), and worse, when they try to contact EA for help sorting this out, they are either ignored or told it’s tough. So what’s going on?

Three examples we’ve heard of in the last week provide contrasting sympathies for those banned, but always with the same result. The thing to stress at this point is, no matter the reason – nor how valid the reason – someone may have been locked out of their forum accounts, on no circumstances should this affect their ability to play games. There are a whole separate set of rules that might see someone locked out of their EA account (and the legality of these, and EA’s rights to prevent someone from playing a game they’ve paid for without offering a refund, are another matter entirely), and one should not affect the other. As was explained by EA in March. Said EA’s Senior Director of Customer Support, Boyd Beasley to “Arno”:“Unfortunately, there was an error in the system that accidentally suspended your entire EA account. Immediately upon learning of the glitch, we have restored the entire account and apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused while accessing other areas of the EA service.”
However, four days later on 15th March, we were still hearing about the same happening to other EA gamers, and contacted EA to find out why this was still a problem. It was, they told us, still “an error”. After we’d tried to get in touch with Boyd Beasley directly, we received a reply from someone within EA called Andrew Wong, who told us:“As noted last week, we have identified an error in our system which can suspend a user’s entire account when our terms of use policy has been violated. We are working to fix this and expect to have the issue resolved by the end of this week. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience – it is not our policy to prevent customers from playing a single-player game. Any registered player who feels they have been banned inappropriately is urged to contact EA Customer Service.”
The problem was intended to be fixed by the end of that week, which was eight months ago. So why is it still happening? And why the mention of single-player games in that context? As if a forum ban is in any way related to playing online gaming, when it isn’t offline gaming.


The first person to get in touch with us about BF3 was Nick. It’s hard to sympathise with Nick, to be frank. He made a stupid thread about “teabagging” on the EA forums, and then seemed to be a bit confused that he should get in trouble for suggesting he dangle his “balls” in dead people’s faces. Common sense would dictate that’s not a subject to be raising on a family-friendly forum. His astonishment expressed to us that this should be an issue isn’t endearing. However, less endearing was EA’s response. Following Wong’s advice above he contacted EA’s Customer Support, via email and live chat, and received a refusal to even discuss the matter each time.

We also heard from Rob. Rob’s encounter with EA’s seemingly arbitrary banning process makes much less sense. His account was suspended for having posted a “commercial”. What he had in fact posted was a link to his non-commercial blog, to a guide to “network troubleshooting”, recently updated for helping gamers get connected to BF3. A link that’s been repeatedly posted to the same forums for a couple of years, and better still, has actually been linked to by EA Support themselves. The link, says Rob, is mentioned on their own corporate support site and FAQ! He too found that the live chat support was absolutely useless, with those replying unable to deviate from a script that endlessly, uselessly loops. This led to his being banned from his gaming account for 72 hours, as well as a permanent “strike” on EA’s “three strikes” system. Something it’s not possible for him to dispute.

Then we heard from James, whose tale is even more extraordinary. He has been permanently banned for using the word “e-peen”. (For those unfamiliar, this is short for “electronic penis”, and tends to be used to suggest someone is egotistically willy-waving.) However, he did not even introduce the word. It was in reply to someone else who’d said it, and responded, “Ah, back to the e-peen talk.” He was originally told this ban would be for 72 hours, but on Saturday received an email informing him that it was now to be a permanent ban from his Origin account, with no further explanation given. It was added that the matter was “now closed”. And, as ever, EA’s live chat and customer support are refusing to help him in any way. He’s also been told that his BF3 characters and levels will be deleted.

Update: James explains he was polite and courteous with the EA Live Chat person, who had pointed him toward the email form to request further help. He filled this in, again politely he says, and the next day received an email in response saying,“Please note that your account [email] has been permanently terminated from the Electronic Arts Online service for violating the terms of services. The account will no longer be accessible in any way, and all property, items, and characters associated currently are or will soon be deleted.”
And the in field explaining why?“This action was necessary due to the repeated nature of the offense on the account. We regret having to take this final step, but it is entirely necessary on behalf of protecting the Electronic Arts Online community. The violation has already been discussed above so further communication on this matter won’t be entertained. We thank you for your understanding on all the statutes within the Terms of Service, and they still contractually apply to you as per the original agreement, especially the sections regarding terminated members of the service.”
No such discussion had taken place. No such “repeated” offense had occurred. Which makes the refusal to even discuss this ban somewhat problematic. Since he received this email, James has not been able to access any of his Origin games online.


So what is going on? We contacted EA about this last week, but have not had a response, let alone a statement on the matter. We’ve tried contacting some other people today, and will update if we receive a reply. And let’s not forget the statement (http://www.shacknews.com/article/55656/ea-not-banning-game-access) that EA gave to Shack back in 2008:“Posting in EA Forums is enabled by an EA Nucleus account — but access to the forums and access to the games are separate. Players who have been banned from EA Forums are not automatically banned from online access to their other EA games. Players can be banned if they breach the Terms of Service or Code of Conduct in a forum, game or service. Each forum, game and service is managed independently by customer support representatives responsible for that specific forum, game or service.”

SOURCE (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/11/14/ea-forum-bans-are-still-affecting-games/)

11-17-2011, 09:18 AM

EA’s Unwieldy Banhammer: EA Responds


By John Walker on November 17th, 2011 at 11:26 am.

For the last week I’ve been sending quite a few emails to various people within EA, trying to get to the bottom of why gamers receiving forum bans are finding they do not have access (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/11/14/ea-forum-bans-are-still-affecting-games/) to their Origin online gaming. My goal has been to get a clear understanding of their current policy on the matter, since the company’s actions don’t appear to match the statements made in 2008 (http://www.shacknews.com/article/55656/ea-not-banning-game-access), and March (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/11/ea-retracts-game-ban-for-forum-violation/) this year. On both occasions they have made it clear that forum bans should not affect access to games, and yet it’s quite obvious that’s not the case. So what is going on? We’re getting closer to understanding. While we’ve still no clear idea what their current policy actually is, EA have promised me that they are “planning a policy update which will include more equitable rules”, with a view to having “the time fit the crime.”

A number of people had contacted us to say that their forum bans (both justified and mystifying) were locking them out of their online gaming, and that their attempts to find out why from EA’s customer support were met with silence or nonsense. Ignoring the question of the legality of preventing access to a purchased product (something I’m looking into), the confusion really lay in EA’s previous assurances that they would not be doing this after the “error” in March. Something that really doesn’t seem to line up with the statement given to me today.

John Reseburg, of EA’s Corporate Communications, contacted me overnight with a statement. I’m breaking it in two halves:“With every game and service EA offers, we take the satisfaction of our customers very seriously. We discourage cheating and strive to maintain a high level of integrity in both our games and our forums. Therefore when someone violates our Terms of Service, we are forced to take actions that can include suspensions and other measures. We do not take those decisions lightly – however the integrity of our services and the satisfaction of our customers requires a clear set of rules.
Obviously this first half obfuscates the issue. This hasn’t ever been about those who cheat within games, and clearly in violating EA’s online gaming rules, such actions will receive the stated consequences to online gaming. This is very much at the core of the issue here: the conflation of incorrect behaviour on forums, and the same in games. Let’s have a quick aside to ensure absolute clarity about why this conflation is quite so inappropriate:

If you play a game of BF3 online, you’re going to hear swearing. Heck, if you play it offline you’re going to hear swearing from the in-game characters. BF3 is a game in which there is swearing, cursing, bad language, however you’d like to put it. The chances are you’re going to hear some strong language as you play, and no one’s getting banned for that, least of all the NPCs of the single-player campaign. However, say “balls” or “e-peen” on the forum, and you’re getting banned, seemingly from the games too, for one person for life. There’s clearly no equivalence. It doesn’t make sense for the two to be treated the same, which, oddly enough, was EA’s own opinion in the past (http://www.shacknews.com/article/55656/ea-not-banning-game-access).


But back to that requirement for a clear set of rules. The statement continues:“We have listened to our customers and are planning a policy update which will include more equitable rules on suspensions – we want to make sure the time fits the crime. As with all technology updates, these changes take some time to implement. Meanwhile, we urge any user with a question about suspensions or our policies to please contact us at (866) 543-5435 so we can address their specific situation.”
This is potentially great news. The ‘time fitting the crime’ aspect is a little concerning. It’s never been about the 72 hour period being too long/short. But perhaps more equitable rules will mean forum suspensions will no longer affect gaming?

But of course the current problem remains: the implicit suggestion that it is their policy to ban from games for forum violations after all. So what was March all about? I’ve responded to all involved at EA asking if we can just get a clear reply explaining what their current policy is. If it is the case, right now, that misbehaving on forums affects your Origin gaming, then we desperately want to be able to warn you about that, not least because we assured you the opposite eight months ago when EA told us that. I think it would be safe to say that were this EA’s current policy, we would strongly advise our readers to go nowhere near EA’s forums for fear of an errant ban directly affecting their ability to play games they have purchased. For now, until I receive clarification, I think we have to assume this is the case.

It’s also worth noting that those forum violations are pretty stringent – if quoting another’s use of “e-peen” is enough to see a ban (and in this guy’s case, a permanent ban!) then they need to make their guidelines a lot clearer. Especially as it currently has such a dramatic effect to be banned. Although more importantly, a proper distinction needs to be drawn between the forums, and Origin.

Reseburg stresses how much he urges those being affected to call the number stated above. Unfortunately it’s a US number, so would be an international call for many involved, and I’ve asked for a European equivalent. (The other issue there is the Get Human page (http://gethuman.com/Electronic_Arts_Tech_Support/phone-number_customer_service_493_no.html) for that number reports the average wait time to be 79 minutes (although skewed by one report of 400 minutes, and probably closer to around 30).)

So that’s where we are at the moment. Still working on it…

SOURCE (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/11/17/eas-unwieldy-banhammer-ea-responds/)