Sony PlayStation is being taken to court for issues related to the way games are sold on their digital storefront once again. This time around, the legal action is being led by Alex Neill, a consumer rights campaigner who is also the ex-managing director of Which UK.
According to the claim, which landed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal on Friday, anyone in the UK who has purchased digital content from PlayStation has been overcharged, which amounts to roughly 9 million customers and £5 billion in supposedly unfairly gained revenue. Should the claim be successful, those same gamers may be entitled to compensation, with interest. The legal action, which is funded by litigation and arbitration specialists at Woodsford, is possible because of the opt-out collective action clause Neill fought to introduce to the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Neill and the team at Woodsford put the blame for the higher prices on the 30% commission on digital content that the company enforces as a rule for products sold on its digital game store, which they believe is an ‘anti-competitive’ business strategy. It’s worth noting that other platforms with digital shops including the likes of Steam, Xbox and the iOS App Store also take this 30% cut, while Epic takes a lower percentage of 12%, with the need to pay sales royalties waived if a product that runs on their Unreal Engine is sold through their store. If the current lawsuit is successful, all of these companies are likely to have to make changes to their business models as well before too long to avoid similar legal woes.
“With this legal action I am standing up for the millions of UK people who have been unwittingly overcharged. We believe Sony has abused its position and ripped off its customers.” said Neill to Sky News. “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 are 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.”
PlayStation was defending itself against other claims of anti-competitive behaviour in a California courtroom only last month, as they had to prove they were not running a monopoly by not allowing for other digital stores on PlayStation platforms. While the case was thrown out, as the plaintiffs were unable to sufficiently prove their case, several technology providers and their associated stores have been under fire recently for locking their hardware down in this way.
Allowing for third-party stores and payment providers is also one of the many subjects of the new Digital Markets Act that has been provisionally agreed upon by the EU, so things may also be forced to change by new regulations soon regardless of how things go in court here.