The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Sony Interactive Entertainment Network Europe Limited (Sony Europe) for making false or misleading representations to Australian consumers on its website and in dealings with Australian customers of its PlayStation online store.
The ACCC alleges that from around September 2017, Sony Europe told consumers seeking a refund for faulty games that it did not have to provide refunds for games that had been downloaded, or if 14 days had passed since purchase.
Sony Europe also allegedly told consumers it did not have to provide refunds unless the game developer told the consumer the game was irreparably faulty or otherwise authorised a refund. It also told consumers that it could provide refunds using virtual PlayStation currency instead of money.
The ACCC’s case is that these representations are false or misleading, and do not reflect the consumer guarantee rights afforded to all Australian consumers under the Australian Consumer Law.
“We allege that Sony Europe gave false and misleading information to their customers about their rights in relation to games sold via its PlayStation Store,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Consumer guarantees do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded as we allege Sony Europe told consumers, and refunds must be given in the form of original payment unless a consumer chooses to receive it in store credit.”
“Consumers who buy digital products online have exactly the same rights as they would at a physical store,” Mr Sims said.
Under the consumer guarantees in the Australian Consumer Law, consumers have the right to a refund, repair or replacement if a product is faulty because it is not of acceptable quality, is not fit for purpose or does not match descriptions made by the businesses, depending on the seriousness of the fault.
“Sony Europe’s alleged conduct may have caused Australian consumers to not seek a refund, replacement or repair for a faulty game when the Australian Consumer Law gave them a right to do so,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC also alleges that from at least October 2017, Sony Europe told consumers in its Terms of Service that its liability to provide redress for faulty products was limited when this was not true. The Australian Consumer Law applies to all businesses that engage in trade and commerce with Australian consumers, including the supply of digital goods such as games.
“No matter where in the world a company has its headquarters, if it is selling to Australian consumers, the Australian Consumer Law applies,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, correctives and costs.
The ACCC has also instituted proceedings against Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Limited (SIEE) in relation to these allegations. SIEE is the parent company of Sony Europe. It is responsible for the content available at the PlayStation Australia website www.playstation.com/en-au.
Sony Europe is incorporated in the UK and is responsible for the PlayStation Network Terms of Service that Australian consumers must agree to when creating and using a PlayStation account. These terms are also made available to the public on the Australian PlayStation website.
Sony Europe also operates the PlayStation Support Centre, which serves Australian consumers who experience issues with their PlayStation games.
In 2018, the High Court affirmed the Full Federal Court’s decision in the ACCC’s case against gaming retailer Valve Corporation which found games it sold online to Australian consumers were subject to the Australian Consumer Law despite the company being incorporated in the USA.