It turns out digital store refund policies slowly but surely catching up with consumer laws. Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe just lost a court case over its PlayStation Store refund policy, and now has to pay $3.5 million Australian dollars (AUD) in penalties.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) ruled that PlayStation's parent company made "false and misleading representations on its website and in dealings with Australian consumers."
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According to the ACCC, Sony misled four consumers when customer service representatives said that PlayStation refuses refunds after 14 days a game is purchased or when a game is downloaded.
One representative told a customer that Sony Europe could only provide a refund using PlayStation currency and another told a customer that it did not have to provide a refund unless the game developer authorized it. ACCC ruled that this breached Australian Consumer Law.
"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 press statement.
"What Sony told these consumers was false and does not reflect the consumer guarantee rights afforded to Australian consumers under the Australian Consumer Law," Sims continued. "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."
This specific PlayStation Store refund policy was introduced last year. Shortly after, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo's online gaming contracts to see if they breach consumer protection laws.
"Our investigation will look into whether the biggest online gaming companies are being fair with their customers when they automatically renew their contracts, and whether people can easily cancel or get a refund," said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli. "Should we find that the firms aren’t treating people fairly under consumer protection law, we are fully prepared to take action."
I doubt we'd see something like this happen in the United States, but it's interesting to see other countries going after big tech and gaming companies.