A federal court in Australia announced they had fined Sony Europe $3.5 million for violating Australian consumer protection laws in regards to refunds. A press release put out by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) summed up the case, which had been initiated in May of 2019.
For reasons that are known only to Sony, customer service and support issues for Australian customers are handled by Sony’s European subsidiary. At some point, between October 2017 and May 2019, the Terms of Service for Sony Europe customers implied that they did not have any consumer protections as far as the final quality and functionality of digital products.
When four customers attempted to obtain refunds for games which they believed were faulty, Sony Europe’s customer service reps informed them they were not entitled to refunds if the game had already been downloaded or if 14 days had passed from the date of purchase.
To make matters worse, one of those four customers was also informed (erroneously, as it turns out) that Sony Europe did not have to provide a refund unless the developer had explicitly authorized it. A fifth customer was told any returns would be in “store credits” on the PlayStation Store rather than actual Australian dollars.
As ACCC Chairman Rod Sims explained, “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. Refunds under the consumer guarantees must also be given in cash or money transfer if the consumer originally paid in one of those ways unless the consumer chooses to receive store credit.”
With the judgment against them, Sony has admitted liability and will be reimbursing the ACCC for court costs in addition to the fine.