Sony is being sued in the UK for £5 billion, or $5.9 billion, over claims it “ripped people off” by overcharging consumers for games and in-game purchases from its PlayStation Store. The class-action suit seeks damages for nine million people, with each one estimated to receive between £67 and £562 ($80 and $663) if it is successful.
Consumer rights champion Alex Neill launched the suit against Sony. As per Sky News, the Japanese giant is accused of breaching competition law by abusing its market power and imposing unfair terms and conditions on game developers and publishers, thereby pushing up the selling price of titles for consumers.
The “ripping people off” part of the argument stems from the 30% commission Sony takes from PlayStation Store sales. The cut that companies take from developers who sell titles on their respective stores has long been an area of contention, especially when it comes to Apple, which also charges 30%. Epic, whose legal spats with the iPhone-maker are well documented, likes to point out it charges devs just 12% commission.
The suit alleges that consumers have been overcharged by five billion pounds ($5.9 billion) over the last six years for PS Store games and DLC. It says around nine million people have been affected. Should the claim prove successful, each person could receive between $80 and $663 in damages.
“Gaming is now the biggest entertainment industry in the UK, ahead of TV, video, and music and many vulnerable people rely on gaming for community and connection. The actions of Sony is costing millions of people who can’t afford it, particularly when we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and the consumer purse is being squeezed like never before,” said Neill.
The claim relies on the opt-out collective action regime introduced by the UK’s Consumer Rights Act 2015. It makes it easier for consumers and businesses to bring private actions for damages suffered due to competition law infringements on behalf of an entire class of claimants. In this case, PlayStation Store users.
Natasha Pearman, the legal partner leading the case, said: “Sony dominates the digital distribution of PlayStation games and in-game content; it has deployed an anti-competitive strategy which has resulted in excessive prices to customers that are out of all proportion to the costs of Sony providing its services.”
It was only last month when Sony convinced a US court to throw out a different lawsuit claiming its PlayStation Store was anti-competitive. The suit was dismissed as the plaintiffs failed to prove that the company violated the Sherman Act, which outlaws monopolization. It will be surprising if the UK case isn’t also dismissed on similar grounds.