ACCC Forces Sony Into Paying $2.3 Million in Penalties

By Bill Toulas / June 5, 2020

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is bashing Sony for false and misleading representations in its online store. After Sony lost the court case, it is now ordered the payment of AUD 3.5 million in penalties, which is approximately $2.3 million. The issue arose from the Sony PlayStation gaming console store and how the Japanese tech company handled refund requests from Australian customers who bought faulty games. ACCC started its investigation after a notable number of consumer reports arrived at its offices. These reports mentioned that the PlayStation Store has denied them refunds in real-world money, and offered in-game currency or credits instead.

The investigation has yielded quite a few points of concern, as Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe’s refund terms were extremely tight and unfair to the consumers. In several cases, they were going against the national consumer protection laws. First, Sony offered refunds only for 14 days after purchasing digital products from the PlayStation Store, and ACCC finds this to be arbitrary and against the law. As the agency points out, consumer guarantee rights do not expire or disappear after two weeks, so Sony’s terms on that part are wholly unacceptable for ACCC.

Secondly, Sony denied direct refunds in real money for several cases that concerned downloaded titles. The PlayStation Store claimed that they needed authorization from the game developer for that, which is an invalid claim. According to the Australian Consumer Law, consumers have the right to obtain a repair or a replacement or a refund. Thus, game developers aren’t and shouldn't be involved in any step of the process. Additionally, DLC packs that have been downloaded and tested by the client are still valid for a refund if the consumer is not satisfied with what they got. PlayStation told several of them that by downloading the software, they were no longer eligible for a refund, which doesn’t stand legally. As for the offer to compensate players by using in-game currency, ACCC claims this happened in 20% of the cases.

This case has ignited a similar investigation in the UK, undertaken by the British Competition and Markets Authority. The organization will now take an in-depth look into the refund processes of Sony, Microsoft, and also Nintendo. They will try to figure out if the terms are valid and in accordance with the national legislation, as well as how easily people are allowed to cancel subscriptions and get refunds. That said, further enforcement action and more financial penalties might be imposed onto Sony soon.

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