Buying on ThemeForest and CodeCanyon can be tricky, as I was to learn.
Recently Envato – the company that runs ThemeForest and CodeCanyon – announced that authors of themes and plugins would be required to provide support for six months. The announcement is overdue and welcome. As this improvement rolls out, the assumption is that a theme or plugin will be available for at least six months.
Discovering Theme Forest was a delight. Discovering Code Canyon even more so. WordPress themes and plugins traded in a marketplace with comments and user ratings. More to the point, authors like Oman Clarke, Pippin Williamson and the dudes at Astoundify have always provided exceptional support. One day as I perused my account, I noticed that a plugin I had purchased was no longer available. So I wrote asking for a refund, which seemed reasonable.
Asking for refund, and learn the terms of sale
Here is the exchange I had with Envato support, and I enquired as to why the file was longer available. I have removed the names of support agents, as it serves no useful purpose.
Envato Support Agent –
Thank you for your message to Envato Support. Unfortunately it looks like the file may have been removed for one of the following reasons:
– The file may be temporarily disabled and could be re-activated again after the problem is fixed and the author has updated it.
– The author may have decided to delete the file from our system
You’re welcome to contact the author directly for more information:
More information on removed or deleted files can be found here:
Please let support know if you require any further assistance.
I was having a grumpy day, and for once grumpiness was helpful. My response:
That is a most unhelpful answer. I asked what is the status of the file, and you send me to go and check with the author of the plugin. That is your job, dude. Totally suprised, as I buy from over a dozen marketplaces and usually the support team sorts out the communication with the creator of whatever I purchased.
Anyways, it does not look like I am eligible for a refund. What a terrible, terrible policy – 5 days after purchase, and never downloaded. For example, if an item is placed on Envato marketplace and sold, and after 100 days there is a copyright infringement, and it is removed, I would not be eligible for a refund. That in my opinion would be an unethical sale, and unethical to keep the proceeds of that. In simple terms, it is a pretty easy on this policy to be duped by unscrupulous sellers.
Envato Support responds as follows:
Thank you for your email to Envato support. As the item in question has not been downloaded, I have credited your account with a good faith refund for the cost of the item in question.
To answer your query, unfortunately when a file is removed or deleted from our system we cannot continue to offer it for purchase nor can we continue to offer it as a download for customers who have already purchased the item. It is important to note that Envato does not make guarantees as to the ongoing availability of files following initial download for these reasons.
Hope that helps answer your query, all the best.
Thank you for the refund. I am very appreciative of this.
I understand the terms of sale much better now, and will take this into consideration on future sales.
The princely sum in question was either $5-00 or $7-00. The principal involved priceless.
Envato Sales Are Voetstoots
In writing this article, I looked at the stuff I have purchased through Envato marketplaces. The majority of purchases I am extremely happy with. There are however four downloads that are no longer available. One of the plugin authors has set up his own shop, and I have moved with him. The other three that are not available for download are simply not available for download. I do not remember any communication or explanation as to why they were removed. The important bit is that there is no legal requirement to communicate removal of items from the store.
When I know think of buying from Envato Marketplaces I think “voetstoots”. Voetstoots is a South African term which literally means a “sale without guarantees where the thing is sold as is or with all its faults”. The buyer takes the risk. I am not sure if the term is used anywhere else, but in South Africa when someone says they will sell voetstoots it means you are buying something as is, faults and all, and without recourse to any claim on the seller. Most of the WordPress ecosystem operates differently, with support policies and refunds being usually fair.
Legal Terms of Sales
So is this a fair description of the sale terms at Envato. I think it is, and am quoting from their membership terms a couple of clauses that mean you are buying and here is why:
You could lose your money:
- Envato is not obliged to refund any monies that you deposit into your Member Ledger to buy Envato Credits to use as a Buyer. These Envato Credits in your Member Ledger, if not used for a period of 12 months, will be forfeited to Envato on the 12 month anniversary of that deposit. (See Section 13)
- Regarding the forfeiture after 12 months: Envato may, but is not obliged to, warn you about the forfeiture before it occurs.
Terms of sale are highly restrictive (See Section 14)
If you buy a Product, you do so on the following terms:
- you cannot cancel an order for a Product once the order has been submitted;
- Envato does not give any undertaking as to the continued availability of Products offered for sale on the Sites;
- once your order for a Product is accepted, and you pay the fee, you acquire a non-exclusive license to use the Product in accordance with the conditions of the license that you acquire;
- ownership of the Product remains with the Seller;
- payment of the fee will be made at the time of purchase; and
- Sellers are not permitted to buy any of their own Products.
Complicated Refunds (See Section 14)
Downloaded digital items will not be refunded except as required under the Australian Consumer Law or relevant consumer protection laws.
If you want a refund or credit on a Product you must make a claim to Support. We will assess claims on their merits, with regard to the digital nature of the goods and any preview or inspection that was available before purchase.
There is no obligation to provide a refund or credit for reasons including (but not limited to) if you:
- have changed your mind about a Product;
- bought a Product by mistake;
- do not have sufficient expertise to use the Product;
- ask for goodwill; or
- can no longer access a Product because it has been removed by its Seller from the Site(you are advised to download Products immediately upon purchase).
Do I Still Buy?
I thus buy with extreme caution on Theme Forest and Code Canyon. The caution is in finding authors of themes and plugins that offer support and are credible. Outside of Theme Forest, no one would dare sell a theme or plugin “as is” without offering a minimum period of updates and support.
The most important lesson is that good purchases are possible on Theme Forest and Code Canyon. As a website owner I have found a couple of theme shops that provide good quality themes and excellent support. To however underline the point, this is not because of the terms of sales on Envato, but rather in spite of it. That is the major reason I only have so few purchases in five years.
Another important lesson is more tactical. Code Canyon offers a couple of affordable plugins when compared to more established plugins. To test a feature cheaply, it is worth going for the cheaper option in Code Canyon.
The introduction of support packages might nudge me to buy a few more stuff, provided that the terms of sale are improved.
ThemeForest and CodeCanyon polarise the WordPress community. Some love the marketplaces and others dismiss them. Personally, I enjoy strolling through the themes and window shopping, and occasionally buying an item or two. It should be noted I enjoy strolling through smaller marketplaces and independent stores even more.