ACCC Fines Sony $3.5 Million Over Digital Refunds

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Australia’s Federal Court has handed Sony Europe a $3.5 million fine for making “false and misleading representations” to Australians regarding their digital refunds and their Australian Consumer Law (ACL) rights.

The case began in May 2019 when the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced its intentions to take Sony Europe to court. Sony has now been found guilty of misleading four customers who were told by a customer service representative that Sony was not required to refund games once they had been downloaded, or if 14 days had passed since its purchase.

Sony Europe has admitted liability and will also be contributing to the ACCC’s legal costs.

“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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

The Federal Court also stated that Sony Europe was in breach of Australian Consumer Law by telling these customers between October 2017 and May 2019 that a refund did not need to be provided if the game developer hadn’t authorised it. Another separate customer had also been told that Sony Europe would only provide a refund in virtual PlayStation currency.

“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,” said Sims.

“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,” Sims said.

According to the ACCC, Sony Europe’s Terms of Service during this time period also implied that consumer guarantee rights did not extend to digital games.

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

Sims also reiterated that regardless of a company’s headquarters ACL applies whenever Australians are being sold to.

The ACCC successfully fined Valve $3 million for similar ACL violations back in 2016. The company failed to to advertise its refund policy on Steam between 2011 ans 2014 and also refused to provide refunds. This case spanned several years and eventually ended up in the High Court.

Gizmodo Australia reached out to Sony Australia; the company has declined to comment at this time.