UPDATE: After much Tribulation, serfbufo did post an update to Reddit. “Update 4: I got my refund. Thanks again for everyone’s support and all the kind comments about my formatting.”
Sony has not yet commented on the situation, however Reddit user serfbufo did agree to an interview. The full e-mail exchange can be read on pastebin.
Q: In your original post you mention how long you have been dealing with Sony for about 3 months now. You clearly enjoy the companies products and it is someone you choose to support, as you own a PlayStation system and a PlayStation Vita. What is it like to be fighting, in a way, with a company that you enjoy supporting?
Q: If you’ve had to deal with other customer services before for a bad product or a necessary refund, how does your experience with Sony compare to the other companies?
I haven’t had to request refunds very much in my life—I usually either just live with a bad product, figuring it’s not worth the hassle, or do adequate research before my purchase so that it isn’t an issue. I’m not one of those people who complains about service any time something isn’t perfect. I only made an exception for this case because it involved something I hadn’t purchased at all.
Q: Do you think that Sony’s customer service is a reflection as to where the gaming industry is headed in the AAA sector? Is bad customer service something that you think we are going to see often?
Gamespresso has reached out to serfbufo for comment on the situation, and is currently looking into contacting Sony.
Sony has had issues in the past with customer support and refunding those with a hacked account, but Reddit user /u/serfbufo has definitely taken the cake with this story, and incredible record keeping.
For the past three months, serfbufo has been contacting Sony, trying to get them to refund $499.91 in charges. The reason? his account was hacked, and he didn’t actually purchase the games himself. Taking to Reddit as his last home, serfbufo made a lengthy post on /r/gaming which you can read all of here.
The summary for the post is as follows,
- An unknown attacker gains access to my PSN account and makes approximately $500 in charges to my debit card. Sony has a history of security breaches.
- Because of Sony’s policy of banning accounts from which chargebacks arise, I try to get my money back from Sony without resorting to a chargeback, a process where a bank officially files fraudulent charges against a merchant.
- Every step of the way, Sony’s representatives promise me my $500 back, yet I only ever see $230 of it.
- Eventually, Sony tells me that the remaining money cannot be refunded due to a ridiculous technicality. (They apparently cannot process refunds for banned accounts, and the attacker created a sub-account that they suggested I request be banned.)
- Sony’s representative tells me that “literally” the only way to get my money back is a chargeback. I tell my bank to issue the chargeback.
- Sony disputes the chargeback using extremely questionable logic that doesn’t even address the fraudulent nature of the original charges, and somehow wins.
- Currently, I am in the process of re-filing the claim, this time trying to make it very clear that it is a case of fraud, not whatever Sony claims it is.
But there is so much more detail to it then that.
Serfbufo provides some background, explaining that he owns one PlayStation console, and a PlayStation Vita. In the post, he claims that “My only interaction with the PlayStation Network is that I occasionally buy games from the PSN Store (no online play, etc.),”
After discovering a few e-mails from Sony thanking him for his purchase, serfbufo investigated as quickly as he could. Discovering a sub-account under his account with the charges, he decided to try and settle it with PlayStation Network, as Sony has a habit of banning people who issue a charge back from their bank. He revoked permission to his account from the sub-account, changed his passwords, and removed his card information from being stored in PlayStation Network.
In his first attempt to contact Sony, it was after hours in their live chat. He was greeted with an image that could lead people to believe that the service doesn’t actually exist.
On August 19th, 2015, serfbufo managed to have a chat with Evelyn, from PlayStation. In the end, Evelyn assured serfbufo with the following message,
“Evelyn: PlayStation takes all security matters seriously. Your case will be passed on to our Trust and Safety team for investigation and you will hear back from us within 5 business days.”
The full transcript can be read here, and it appears as if serfbufo has made serious progress by being polite to customer support. Huh, who knew?
Sony e-mailed serfbufo back within a few days, claiming that they will be offering him a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to reverse the transactions. They did explain in the e-mail that it would take some time to see the refunds apply (about 1-2 months) but it would happen.
“A couple more days pass, and I see that two of the four charges to my card had been reversed. Awesome! Just two more to go! At this point, $229.97 of the total $499.91 has been returned to me. I also notice that there is $55 sitting in my PlayStation wallet (down from the $150 that was there after the fraudulent charges, but up from the $0 that was there prior to this whole mess). Anyway, any day now, the other two charges will be reversed and this will all be over with. Any day now.
Any day now…”
For anyone who has had a debit or credit card attacked, you could relate to serfbufo’s impatience in this situation. $499.91 is a lot of money, and Sony is known for being hacked on a regular basis. Judging by the e-mail, they clearly didn’t want to refund him the money, and would much rather blame it on him then their faulty security.
Dealing with services like Microsoft, Sony, or even Bell Canada in the past, this phone call is absolutely insane. At no point does the person on the other end of the phone call give an actual answer, he simply blames it on the bank and tries to make them solve it. Serfbufo had this to say in his Reddit post regarding the email,
“Okay, so the thing about it being sent to my PlayStation wallet was a false alarm. Good, good. Still, I am a little worried about this taking too long, since I want to file for a chargeback with my bank if this doesn’t work out, and there’s usually a 1-2 month time limit for that.
I call up my bank and they say that any credits should be posted more or less immediately on their online banking service, but I’ll give everyone the benefit of the doubt and be patient for a little longer.”
After going a few weeks and seeing no refunds, serfbufo contacted and confirmed that his MasterCard had no pending refunds. He still didn’t have the money back from Sony. So, back to the phone calls he goes. Serfbufo is transferred to billing and talking to Victor, when he gets put on hold so Victor can grab a supervisor. After 15 minutes of being on hold, the call disconnects. Serfbufo calls back and gets Warren this time, with two audio files(Part 1 & Part 2), and a full text transcript here.
This phone call is even more bananas because Warren actually starts telling serfbufo that they can’t refund the money that they had promised to refund in the beginning. This is because they banned his account, which was after the refunds were put into place originally. “Wait, hold on. I requested that account to be banned on September 1st. However, these refunds were on August 24th, so that shouldn’t have had anything to do with it.”
They also can’t unban the account for him, his ‘only option’ is to perform a chargeback from his bank account.
Serfbufo goes ahead with the charge back through his bank and Sony actually responds to it, saying that he is wrong. The whole PDF for Sony’s rebuttal can be found here. The claim was rejected by the bank, agreeing with Sony’s flawed logic.
Sony even closed his account. “Anyway, I decided to log in to my PSN account to see how things were faring on that front, and lo and behold, I couldn’t log in because my account had been banned. Despite Warren’s assurance that the chargeback banning would only apply to the sub-account. Despite Sony having disputed the chargeback and mindbogglingly succeeding. That wasn’t enough, so they closed my PSN account, which had tangible value in the form of previously purchased games.”
In the end, this is the conclusion posted, and let me tell you, this entire post is worth reading.
“Steaming, I call up my bank and explained the situation. My bank’s representative theorizes that the chargeback had been treated as “unauthorized charges” instead of “fraud”. I wasn’t sure what the difference was, but apparently unauthorized charges are when, say, a company overcharges for a service, or when you cancel a monthly subscription but they keep billing you. Fraud is when someone pretends to be you and uses that info to charge your card. This seems like clear-cut fraud to me.
As it stands now, I’m waiting for my bank to get back to me on re-filing the chargeback. All logic dictates that I should win, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that logic doesn’t matter.”
The entire situation is mind boggling, how a customer service could refuse to respond to someone who is treating them so nicely. We only see serfbufo’s temper flare in the third audio transcript, and at the point its to be expected. He even apologizes for the way he treats the representative.
This is by far one of the best ways to highlight the bureaucracy, and criminal nature of the companies that we support by purchasing their games.