Sony fined R40 million for misleading customers with digital refund policy

Australian consumers will be in a better position from now on when trying to get a refund from the PlayStation store after the Australian Australian Competition, and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found against Sony.

The current case follows a similar finding where the ACCC ruled that Australian gamers were entitled to refunds for Fallout 76. The Fallout 76 case dealt with physical games from retailer EB Games.

No refunds for Fallout 76

The Fallout 76 launch was plagued with problems from bugs in-game and server issues. As a result, many customers requested refunds.

EB Games initially told customers that they were not entitled to a refund until the ACCC stepped in and forced them to refund customers in full and in cash.

The PlayStation Store case is a bit more problematic as the ACCC essentially ruled that their whole online refund policy was misleading consumers about their rights. Essentially their refund policy didn’t comply with Australian law. 

No expiry on consumer dates

“Consumer guarantee rights do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded and certainly do not disappear after 14 days or any other arbitrary date claimed by a game store or developer,” said Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC.

This is important as often consumers assume that different rules apply to digital stores where there is no physical product changing hands.

“What Sony told these consumers was false and does not reflect the consumer guarantee rights afforded to Australian consumers under the Australian Consumer Law. Consumers can obtain a repair, replacement or refund directly for products with a major fault from sellers and cannot simply be sent to a product developer.”

Refund policy loophole

The final nail in Sony’s coffin though was that their online refund policy stated that there was “no guarantee to customers of the quality surrounding the functionality, completeness, accuracy, or performance of games that they purchase digitally.”

So they could, according to their own refund policy, let you download, take your money and only give you half of the game and not have to refund you.

The ACCC was emphatic about the fact that the rules for the PlayStation store could not be different from any other store in the country.

“Consumers who buy digital products online have exactly the same rights as they would if they made the purchase at a physical store,” added Sims.

Hefty fine issued

The end result of the case was the ACCC fining Sony $2.4 million ($3.5 million AUD, or R40 million) for “false and misleading representations”, My few encounters with Sony support about online purchases have all been rather painful.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Australian judgement sees Sony change their ways in all their stores or if this leads to South Africans asserting their rights according to the Consumer Protection Act. Protection Status

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