After being accused of allegedly overcharging PlayStation gamers in digital purchases though their 30% commission, Sony has been sued for $5.9 billion USD.
Sky News reports that consumer rights activist Alex Neill claims nine million gamers have been overcharged £5 billion in digital game purchases (including in-game items and possibly DLC) over the prior six years and “ripped people off.”
Advised by Milberg London LLP and with action funded by Woodsford, Neill argues Sony’s 30% commission on every digital sale and large market influence forced developers and publishers to raise their sale prices. She argues Sony breached competition law with this action.
Neill argues gamers could have been overcharged £5 billion GBP ($5.9 billion USD) since 19th August 2016, suing for the same amount. She opens her claim to anyone who made any purchase on the PlayStation Store since that date, and may be entitled to damages, estimated from £67 to £562 ($79.11 USD to $663.59 USD) before interest.
“The game is up for Sony PlayStation,” Neill boasted. “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.”
“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,” he argues.
“Sony dominates the digital distribution of PlayStation games and in-game content;” Natasha Pearman, a Milberg London LLP partner notes, “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.”
“This claim is only possible because of the opt-out collective action regime that was introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015; a regime which Alex fought to introduce. We are looking forward to working with Alex and making sure that the regime achieves its aims of protecting and compensating consumers.”
VGC report the 30% commission is also employed by Steam, Xbox, and the App Store. The latter gained infamy last year as Epic Games sued Apple and Google over their respective smartphone stores, arguing they had a monopoly over their own stores, and restricted gamers’ ability to purchase Fortnite V-Bucks directly from themselves.
This came after Epic submitted an app to allow players to buy V-bucks directly — with no commission to Apple and Google — leading up to both the application and the popular battle royale title being removed from the online stores. Fortnite is still unavailable on the App Store.
While initially trying to distance themselves from the suit, Google would later counter-sue Epic for breaching the terms of their store in October last year; the aforementioned direct payment app. Apple argued the similar in court, and a judge ruled Apple would have to allow external payment methods on the App store, but also that Epic Games had breached their contract with their shenanigans.
Neill’s case does share some comparisons, as she is arguing Sony’s 30% commission doesn’t give developers or publishers a choice, and the buck is passed to the customer. Whether Xbox and other owners of digital stores will be called in at a later stage is unknown.
What do you think? Does Neill have a case? Can a digital store owner not charging 30% commission compete with larger companies who do? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.