Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe got fined for $2.4 million US dollars, or $3.5 million in the local currency, after the Australian Federal Court agreed to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's legal proceedings started in May 2019 because of the PlayStation Store refund policy.
According to the ACCC, Sony Europe made 'false and misleading representations' on its website and in dealing with Australian consumers. Specifically, four of them got told by the customer service that the company was not required to refund the game after its download or after 14 days since the purchase, according to the PlayStation Store refund policy.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims said:
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.
That's not all. The Australian Court also found Sony Europe in breach of Australian Consumer Law because it told one of the aforementioned four customers that it didn't have to provide a refund if the game developer didn't authorize it in the first place, and because it told a fifth customer that the refund could be provided but only with the virtual PlayStation currency instead of real money.
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.
Last but not least, the Court noted that between October 2017 and May 2019 the PlayStation Store refund policy (via the Terms of Service) implied how users didn't have any guarantee rights regarding the quality, functionality, completeness, accuracy, or performance of their purchased digital games.
However, as noted by Rod Sims, these guarantees cannot be removed at all under the Australian Consumer Law.
Consumers who buy digital products online have exactly the same rights as they would if they made the purchase at a physical store. No matter where in the world a company has its headquarters, if it is selling to Australian consumers, the Australian Consumer Law applies.
The ACCC is certainly very active in protecting the rights of Australian consumers. Just a few days ago we reported that customers who had purchased Fallout 76 from EB Games Australia are now entitled to a refund even if the game launched over a year and a half ago. On the mobile front, the ACCC also fined Apple and sued Samsung in the last twelve months or so.