Coming soon or available soon - the signs we've been seeing in just about every shop, especially gaming ones, will soon be a thing of the past in Germany as their government decided to crack down on the practice of giving vague dates.
This means that shops must have a fixed latest date by which a product, in our example a video game, will be delivered and available. Any other scenario would mean that a shop cannot even offer pre-orders to its customers and yes, it covers both digital and physical sales.
The Higher Regional Court of Munich passed the decision after a German consumer rights group brought the issue to their attention. However, the actual root cause can be traced back to 2016 and German consumer electronics retailing giant Media Markt.
Media Markt found themselves in hot water over some Samsung Galaxy S6s that were advertised and sold as if they were in stock, only for customers to realise it is not the case. This does indeed put customers into an uncomfortable position, where they must know the product better than the seller and even then there's a good to fair chance they'll splash out on a promise.
The Court thinks that customers must know at least by when should they expect a product they've paid for. The sentiment is echoed by the president of the Düsseldorf Consumer advocacy group Wolfgang Schuldzinski, who said that sellers have a responsibility to display this information to their consumers.
To be fair, this is what consumer rights protection is all about and it's one of those things that makes instant sense, especially when someone thinks of it first. We may even see this practice spreading, especially at the time when early access is morphing into a cash grab jump-pad.
Cloud Imperium Games
Ultimately, this spells the end of "coming soon" signs in Germany, since they're officially considered a scamy if not accompanied by the worst-case scenario date. Pre-ordering schemes just became a tad trickier for both publishers and distributors. Sometimes I wish Star Citizens developer were Germans though. Just kidding, I'm not even sure this law covers crowdfunding. Come to think of it, it should.