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What's the deal with Epic Games Store refunds?

UPDATE: Epic streamlines manual refund process.

UPDATE: Epic has now streamlined its manual refund process to make life easier for customers.

An Epic employee has stated on Reddit that the company "streamlined [its] process on Saturday", but "this did not make it to all agents".

Shortly before this article was published, Epic implemented this new system. Customers wishing to claim a refund can now do so by providing the invoice ID of the Epic Games Store purchase. I re-tested the process, and the automatic email now looks like this:

This is certainly a significant improvement on the previous manual process, and should help tide things over until Epic's automatic refund process is up and running.

ORIGINAL STORY: It's shiny, it's brand new, it's causing confusion - the Epic Games Store is here, and all eyes are on the platform to see whether it can truly rival Steam. It's already received praise for offering developers a generous revenue split of 88/12 compared to Steam (which currently offers 75/25 for revenue over $10m or 80/20 for games that generate over $50m). Yet over the past few days, concerns have been raised over whether the Epic Games Store will treat customers with similar fairness - with many pointing to its current refund policy as a potential source of problems. There's a lot of confusion here, however, so here's a breakdown of what we know so far about the Epic Games Store's refund policy.

The online discussion began when users on Twitter and Reddit posted pictures showing automatic responses customers are currently receiving when they try to get a refund for their games. Pointing to an Epic Games Store FAQ page which states "a full refund will be offered for any requests made within 14 days of purchase", users claimed Epic was not delivering on this promise, as customers are currently being asked to provide vast amounts of information in order to claim a refund.

I tested this out by purchasing a copy of Hades and then immediately refunding it (sorry, Supergiant Games). Sure enough, if you currently want to get a game refund, you are referred to Epic's contact form, and after sending off a request you receive the following automatic response:

Players are asked to provide highly detailed information - including the date of last login, a past invoice from Epic, the date the Epic account was created, and all IP addresses used by the account (which could be difficult if you have a dynamic IP address). The reason given for this lengthy verification process is to guarantee "player security", but unsurprisingly some have argued this is just a way to prevent people making refund claims. It's unclear whether players must provide every single piece of information, but the email alone is fairly daunting, and likely enough to discourage many from trying. At the moment, it doesn't look great - although there's more to the situation than first meets the eye.

While many doubt Epic's explanation that checks are required for security reasons, there is actually a need for verification in the refund process as it currently functions. Claims for Steam refunds are made when the player is logged into the platform: the Epic Support Centre, meanwhile, does not allow players to log in to verify their identities. As such, some form of ID process is required to prevent random trolls from removing your games - although whether your entire life history should be required is another matter.

The major caveat to all this, though, is that Epic has said this "manual" process is only temporary. It will soon be replaced by an automatic refund system.

In an interview last week with Eurogamer sister site, Epic's Tim Sweeney said the Epic Games Store will launch with "manual refunds through player support, and automated refunds will follow soon". So this is only a short-term solution - albeit one that's fairly annoying for any customers currently trying to claim refunds. Sweeney also mentioned users will be provided with "no-questions-asked refund tokens to use in the first 14 days after buying a game". This sounds a little like what is mentioned in the Epic Games Store FAQs, even if this is not what is currently being experienced.

I guess the good news is I'm hanging onto this for now.

It sounds like Epic could do with clarifying its refund policy to make sure users are aware the current manual system is temporary and requires thorough ID verification. That FAQ page certainly needs an update, but the company has now stated it's working on streamlining the manual refund process so that players will only have to input their order id. Still, Epic should get its skates on with that automatic refund system - particularly when Steam's refund process is so speedy. For instance, two weeks ago (blinded by excitement for Steam's autumn sale) I accidentally purchased regular Fallout 4 rather than the Game of the Year Edition. It took less than two hours for me to receive a refund.

With Epic Games hoping to rival Steam, its current manual refund process isn't setting it up for a great start with consumers. And if you're considering buying something from the Epic Games Store, you may want to proceed with caution for now.