The nature of refunds on digital marketplaces has been an ongoing area of contention for some time now, as their global availability has lead them to, on occasion, come up against the local law of certain countries.
Today, Sony has been accused by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) of breaching the country’s laws by offering its PlayStation Store customers misleading information regarding refunds.
Specifically, Australian Consumer Law dictates that “consumers have the right to a refund, repair or replacement if a product is faulty because it is not of acceptable quality, is not fit for purpose or does not match descriptions made by the businesses, depending on the seriousness of the fault”.
Sony, however, allegedly told its Australian PlayStation Store customers that wanted a refund for a faulty game in late 2017 that it didn’t have to offer a refund for games that had been downloaded, or for digital products that had been purchased more than 14 days ago.
Furthermore, the tech giant apparently told its customers that no refund would be issued unless the game developer themselves told the individual consumer the game was faulty, and that refunds could only be given in PlayStation Store credit rather than money (another breach of Australian Consumer Law).
Sony isn’t the first to be faced with potential penalties due to Australia’s tough consumer laws. The ACCC fined Valve AU$3 million in April, 2018 for almost exactly the same issue in relation to its Steam marketplace, the popular PC gaming storefront.
The Steam lawsuit took roughly four years of legal battle – from initial accusations to the fine being handed out – and, at the time, was viewed as a significant precedent in the success of local consumer laws over internationally sold goods and services.
It’s unlikely that Sony’s case will be resolved much more swiftly than that of Valve’s, but given the precedent, the process may at least be somewhat sped up.