Precautions for live streaming platform’s top-up tokens refund (Taiwan)

Sean Liu and Yuki Chiang

Are users entitled to refund after purchasing top-up tokens on streaming platforms?According to the latest opinion made by Taiwan High Court’s 109 Xiao-Shang-Zi No.26 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Case’) on August 24, 2021, the answer is Yes. However, users should take into account his/her legal relationship in and methods & procedures of claiming a refund.

The main dispute of this Case stems from a user of the “17 Stream” streaming platform (hereinafter referred to as “Streaming Platform”) who, after creating an account and purchased the “17 tokens” used to reward streamers, claims — citing No.5, Paragraph 1, Article 18 of the “Do’s and don’ts of Standard Form Contract for Online Gaming Services” (hereinafter referred to as “Online Gaming Standard Form Contract”) as its basis— for contract termination and refunds for the remaining top-up tokens per the conversion ratio at the time of purchase. In response, the Streaming Platform refused, citing Paragraphs 2 & 3, Article 5 of its Terms of Service, which states that “users shall not by any reason refund or exchange to cash the top-up tokens.”

The Court ruled that the user cannot use the Online Gaming Standard Form Contract as the basis for contract termination, as it does not apply to the purchase of top-up tokens on live streaming platform. However, the Court concludes that the “storage of top-up tokens in a user’s account” applies to regulations under “consumer loan” of the Civil Code. After all, since the top-up tokens stored in the account can be withdrawn freely at any time to reward, interact, or play games with streamers, its nature is essentially the same as opening a savings deposit account, which means they have similar applicability regarding Consumption Deposit regulations.

According to the above opinion, users shall first notify the business of their intent to terminate the legal relationship of “top-up tokens’ storage under the user’s account” and set, for example, a period of more than a month as the deadline for the service provider to return the top-up tokens. Users can then demand a cash refund in line with such tokens’ value if the provider fails to return said tokens.

Our opinion is that the purpose of buying top-up tokens on streaming platforms is to reward and donate, which is of commercial nature, and thus shall be applicable under Consumer Protection Act; it is also true that “audiovisual streaming and socialization” services are different from online gaming services in nature, and should not be applied to Online Gaming Standard Form Contract. By subjecting the purchase of top-up tokens under consumption deposit regulations, the High Court indirectly realized consumers’ rights protection. Thus, if streaming platforms become more popular in the future, a direct standard form contract established by the competent authority may provide a more consumer protective environment.