The ACCC Is Suing Sony Over Digital Refunds

The ACCC Is Suing Sony Over Digital Refunds

Australia’s competition watchdog has announced that is suing Sony and PlayStation Australia for making “false or misleading representations to Australian consumers”, both through its website and through the online PlayStation Store.

The case centres on representations made by Sony support staff to consumers “from around September 2017”–when Destiny 2 launched–whereby consumers were allegedly refused refunds “unless the game developer told the consumer the game was irreparably faulty or otherwise authorised a refund”.

Sony Europe, which operates the PlayStation Support centre that services local gamers, is also alleged to have claimed that it could provide refunds with virtual PlayStation currency instead of Australian dollars. Rod Sims, chairman of the consumer watchdog, said the ACCC would argue in court that consumer rights “do not expire” after a game has been downloaded.

“Consumer guarantees do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded as we allege Sony Europe told consumers, and refunds must be given in the form of original payment unless a consumer chooses to receive it in store credit,” Sims said.

“No matter where in the world a company has its headquarters, if it is selling to Australian consumers, the Australian Consumer Law applies,” Mr Sims said. The regulator said they would be seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, correctives and costs, while also filing an action against Sony Europe’s parent company, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Limited.

The case bears some hallmarks with the ACCC’s successful suit against Valve, the owners and operators of the Steam PC digital marketplace, over their refusal to provide refunds. After a battle that went all the way to the High Court, the Steam platform now has a permanent notice on its front page for Australian users outlining locals of their rights under Australian Consumer Law. Valve also instituted a refund policy while the case was ongoing, where users can refund any game no questions asked provided they have less than two hours of playtime.

Kotaku Australia reached out to Sony Australia and their PR agency for a response. Sony Australia did not respond prior to publication, while their PR spokesperson told Kotaku Australia that Sony Australia “could not be reached for comment”. You can read the full ACCC release outlining their allegations here.


  • Sigh…..

    Yeap, it’s another one of those cases where I drop my colourful language and stick to the harsh facts.

    Many online and offline have often described me as being “anti-progressive” in still preferring the physical copy of a game or movie over the digital version.

    Yes, online distribution has higher accessibility and is on-demand.

    So for those online and off who still deem me as anti-progressive I ask them this. How straight forward was your own last return/refund?

    Part of the reason I still buy physical is because when it comes to digital, many outlets don’t care about consumer convenience.

    Instead, it is to take advantage of how many laws either haven’t caught up with the modern world or they bank on them being too impractical to enforce and consumers will become exhausted in the process.

    This is why so many publishers love to have a digital only world. Consumer rights is not only an inconvenience but a threat to their bottom line. Especially how their profit forecasts these days are focused on pre-orders and micro-transactions.

    Full disclosure, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty certain when it comes to enforcing a law the jurisdiction has to be established and to decide that the location of which the action took place.

    It is the final part where online distribution is favoured as publishers will try to obfuscate the location so they can push what is convenient to them.

    Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that back in the 1990s it was decided that the location of the consumer (such as where the person was when the clicked the mouse or similar) is what decides the location and subsequently the enforcing law.

    • I agree, this is why I basically avoid digital copies as much as possible, at least I know I can get a refund from a physical store here far easier than dealing with a foreign country.

      My last big profile refund was No Mans Sky after an entire month of playing, I know damn well that I couldn’t have pulled that off with a digital copy.

      • Lol at this comment. My last big profile refund was No Mans Sky after an entire month of playing, I know damn well that I couldn’t have pulled that off with a digital copy.

        I’m sorry.. You’ve just admitted to being a completely scrooge, playing the game for a month, then taking advantage of a physical return policy to return it?

        It’s people like you that are the problem with the refund system… smh

        • Howso? Online/Live-service has changed the game.

          This isn’t like reading a book, consuming the content in its entirety, and returning it for a refund, having received all that was on offer.

          Expectations were set that there would be updates, and that the ‘living world’ (or for other titles, ‘endgame’) would reveal itself slowly. If it takes a month to get to the realization that the promise will never be delivered on, that’s not necessarily going to be the fault of the consumer.

          • While I see your point, I disagree. I mean what’s your cutoff? Does the person get to play it for six months? Two years?

            “Oh I thought they were gonna support the game and keep doing updates for a decade, like Counterstrike.”

            That seems a bit unfair to the seller.

            I’d be interested in focusing on the wording on their marketing and gameplay metrics. Lets say they market a game as “100 hours of gameplay”. If you play 100 hours, no refund. If you play say 10 hours then you’d be eligible for refund. Maybe it’d stop some of the hyperbole in marketing where they say “infinite replayability” or “thousands of hours” when that’s not the reality.

          • No it is completely fair, take fallout for example, fallout 4’s Cc conte nt breaks the game and they can’t find out how to fix it.

            Now you are right with the wording, people cannot just play a game and refund, but if a game becomes unplayable because of technical stuff like l that, then the player has the right to refund, or if the game does badly due to developer related problems then refund should be granted so problems like warhammer dow3 do not resurface.

          • I’d still disagree, unless there is an explicit statement that there’ll be ongoing patches and upgrades for a set amount of time then claiming a lack of them is unrealistic. Similarly if a game doesn’t live up to the hype and expectation that’s not a cause for refund. Same goes for breaking the game down the track.

            To expand on that last point more, games (especially modern ones) have a playable life. You can’t expect a game that requires online servers to run forever. At some point it becomes unprofitable and they need to be shut down (Wildstar, Hellgate and dozens more). And even if they’re not an online only game at some point Windows could be updated and break compatibility. I have plenty of old DOS games from the 90s that won’t run. Should devs continue to fix and support them? Should I be able to claim a refund on a 20 year old game?

            So you can’t make a blanket statement that devs need to provide continual support for a game and that you can claim a refund “whenever”. As I pointed out in my previous post it’d make far more sense to base the refund time on some sort of hours played/percent of game played type metric. Ideally in combination with a purchase date. So if you buy a game and just don’t play it for a year you can’t ask for a refund 13 months after you bought it.

          • I better pursue a refund on Warcraft for the 15 years I’ve spent on Subs and Expansions because I decide 15 years isn’t big enough a cut off and they’ve changed it so much since the original. /hand jerk motion

          • Except it’s not any more ridiculous than saying a month is a fair amount of time to ask for a refund after pumping 300 + hours into a game.

            Oh wait, obviously you were linking that to back me up since you agree a month is also a stupid amount of time. Cheers mate 😉

          • Would’ve been some more effective – if still juvenile – attempt at sass if you didn’t rely on having to actually ignore my last couple sentences where I stated explicitly that a month is not unreasonable to wait out that kind of expectation and give up on the developer’s promises.

            Christ you’re bad at this.

          • Yeah look I think we’ve established we’re not going to agree mate. Anyone with your deluded sense of entitlement is always going to think “they’re right” even when it’s obvious you’re not.

            Lets try a few other examples then…

            Go buy a car, then a month later try to return it. Oh wait that wouldn’t happen would it…

            Go to a restaurant, eat there for a month then ask for your money back… Oh.. right yet again. Wouldn’t happen.

            Maybe you could try buying a console, playing it for a month then deciding you’re not liking the direction the console makers are taking…. Drat… think you’re s**t out of luck there in returning it there too chum.

            But please.. enjoy your deluded reality where you some how think you’re entitled to return something after putting 31 days of play time into it. The blinkers you must walk through your life with…. I envy that kind of ignorance. Good luck with all that though kid. You’re going to need it 😀

          • While I agree with you on the games I want to point out that we’re in the process of getting lemon laws for vehicles. So if you buy a new car and it’s got a shitload of problems you could return it after a month. Although, to be fair it’d probably take several months to prove it has enough problems to warrant a return rather than just more warranty repairs.

          • Be quiet. People like you are irritating, use your head, the way the accc worded it was too broad but the intention is that if games are rendered unplayable like fallout 4 because of cc content or something else the consumer deserves their money back, or like warhammer dow3 where they had no idea where to go with the game and just abandoned it. And you would be right with wow, if the devs are going to drastically change a game then they need to issue a agree or decline notice and offer refunds. KEEPING IN MIND that it only applies if the fundemental founding supports of the game are change to where its very different.

          • As I said, agree to disagree. Personally I can’t stand people who think returning something after such a long period as a month (while fully getting hundreds of hours of play time) and think they’re in the right.

            But I’ve stated that many times already…. so yeah. Go on living that entitled life bro.

          • Wow has drastically changed a few times. Every xpac brought new features and removed others. For some people those feature changes are game breaking and they hate them. I personally took two long (9 month or so) breaks after two xpacs were released that changed stuff in a way I didn’t like. Doesn’t mean I should be able to claim a refund though.

            I will say too, WoW is probably a bad example to use in this context since it’s an ongoing subscription. So you’re paying month by month.

          • Yeah. It’s more just grabbing an example of “How long is too long before you can ask for a refund”. I know people that chronically abuse EB’s 7 day return policy. Let’s be honest, for almost 99% of single player games (if you’re a hard core enough gamer) you can get it finished and done in 7 days. My initial reply stance to this entire thing is, that a month is too long a period to return something regardless of “changes” the developer decides to take. And to be honest… pretty sure No Man’s Sky didn’t actually change that much from it’s release in the first month. If the original poster had said “oh I returned it after a few days because it wasn’t what was promised” then fair enough as there was a lot of issue with the game not being what was promised. But going – oh it took me a month of playing non stop playing to decide I wanted to return it? Puh-lease. I should be able to return the 500 – 600 games on my steam shame pile and have more of an argument then all these whiners saying it’s their right to have a month lee way -_-

        • I honestly don’t know why or how you think I took advantage of any return policy, how knowing my rights and how to legitimately argue them under Australian Consumer law makes me everything wrong with the system or how any of that makes me a scrooge.

          I suppose I could assume but you seem to be doing enough of that for both of us and you know what they say about assumption right?

          • Change of mind refunds aren’t covered by law. The game obviously wasn’t faulty since you were able to play for a month.

          • Correct on both!
            There were no faults and the ship had sailed on most return policies so the only avenue left was to pursue a refund based on false and misleading advertising.
            Not only did I have to prove that but I also had to make a case as to why it still applied to the purchase after a month.
            It was certainly one of the more difficult, unique and interesting cases I’ve pursued.

            Despite what some may want to believe, it’s never something I do without a legitimate reason and it’s not like the system is open to abuse.
            I have a pile of awful games I’ve never attempted to return since the only person at fault was myself.

          • It’s because you bought the game. Played it fully (yourself admitting playing it the entire month) then returned it.

            I might start going to the cinema, watching films then requesting my money back.

            Like I said, you’re part of the problem. The fact you don’t see the problem only adds to this statement.

            You must lick your lips at EB’s policy. Guessing your console rack of games is completely empty 😉

          • There you go making wild assumptions again with some additional wild straw men, for some reason.

            Admitting I played it for a month is irrelevant, I had to argue that very point and did so successfully.
            Not seeing I’m a problem is easy because at no stage did I abuse or misuse the system.
            I had to prove without a doubt that I had a legitimate claim and did so within a system that protects retailers from the very abuse your insinuating.

            Why you need to rely on so many misconceptions about the situation and the system itself when you literally have no horse in the race or a legitimate argument to put forward is beyond me.
            That’s all you and I’m not even going to guess.

    • You are saying this like getting rid of consumer rights is the only reason they are going digital.

      The number one reason is profit margins. You don’t have to pay the local store a cut, you don’t have to pay for creating and printing discs, covers and cases and you don’t have to pay for distribution and storage.

    • The Valve/ACCC case answered all these questions. The transaction is bound by australian law no matter where the seller is. What the seller thinks does not matter. I agree every single one of them will most likely be repeatedly dragged before the courts to make it happen, but that’s what the ACCC is for.

      But to be clear it’s not like JB or Good Guys or Harvey Norman won’t try to lie to you about australian consumer law either. They all seem to forget that australia has IMPLIED warranties, and if a TV or a fridge dies outside the warranty period it doesn’t matter because things like that are not meant to be replaced every 2 years and should last much longer in the opinion of the seller. These things don’t make it to the newspapers because “Lady down the street gets fridge replaced by order of Victorian Consumer Affairs” isn’t interesting, but “ACCC sues international company” is.

      • Victoria Consumer Affairs getting involved in a case over a single fridge is pretty funny, actually. I’d look into that if it came across my desk!

        • State government consumer protection departments are there for exactly that sort of thing, and if it’s not something they oversee they will direct you to the correct department.

          Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Act 2012
          incorporating Volume 3, Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (known as the Australian Consumer Law)

          Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading Regulations 2012 No. 62
          Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading (Code of Practice for Fuel Price Boards) Regulations 2016 No. 54
          Australian Consumer Law and Fair Trading (Infringements) Regulations 2018 No. 98
          Competition and Consumer Regulations 2010

      • I think that implied warranties concept is something that needs to be broadcast more to the public. As you say whitegoods should last longer than 12 months. I’d love to see a codified “product life expectancy” list that covers implied warranties on major products. As you say, fridge, TV, washing machine, oven, PC, air-conditioner, car!

        I had a generator die at 12 months 2 weeks. That really should be covered (IMO) as you’d expect a generator to last at least a few years. But with no real guide all I have to go on is the usual 12 month warranty which the seller doesn’t need to honour since it was outside that.

        • It is. There was/is a show on the ABC called The Checkout. Funny as hell and goes over consumer rights constantly.

          It’s also a sad reflection on our standards of education. I am kind of old and went to school when school was about preparing you for adulthood, and we covered stuff like consumer law in mandatory classes.

          Fer instance :

          Now school is about preparing you for the job you think you wanted when you were 10, and that’s obviously working well for society. /s

          • I’m nearly fifty (sigh) and school did bugger all to prepare us for work and the real world. There was next to nothing that covered law, tax, budgets, etc. It was all “pure” subjects math, english, science, etc. I think we had one subject that touched on community education and it was basically viewed as “what you picked if you were too dumb to do sciences”.

            Sadly, one show on the ABC doesn’t really help. I mean I feel like the 12 month warranty thing is common knowledge now, but implied warranties still isn’t. I know it’d be a hell of a problem but it’s almost like white goods places need to provide the information when you buy a stove/fridge/etc.

          • Unfortunately you can’t force people to learn things. All you can do is put the information in a way that makes it easily accessible and easy to understand.

            Well you can, but I don’t think Jacobs Ladder brainwash chairs will go over well with the community.

          • Yeah that’s a big part of the reason why it’d be good to get a leaflet when you buy a fridge that either outlines your rights in a basic way, or at the very least points you towards the legislation that protects your rights.

            I can’t see retailers being happy with the idea though, or the manufacturers for that matter.

    • I think part of the attraction too is that customers often view a digital “thing” as less real than a physical one. So as a result if a downloaded game doesn’t work people often shrug and move on. That is less likely to happen when you have a physical box taking up space and reminding you of it’s faults. So even without the slimy actions, they probably make better money just because people are too lazy/forget about getting refunds on digital.

  • They have even less of a chance of claiming “But we don’t operate in Australia!” than Valve did.

    Their consoles have been sold here for many years, with regional pricing and variants, they have Australian targeted PSN sales and regional pricing on games, you can go out and buy PSN credit and PS + cards at almost any Big W / EB Games.

    While they’re at it, just take Microsoft and Nintendo to task as well to get it in their head, refunds are apart of the risk of selling goods and/or services.

    • Actually IIRC Microsoft are pretty decent with refunds. I believe the Xbox has a much more efficient system for removing games from accounts, so assuming the game has a reason for a refund, they normally will refund you. Not to say however it changes between representatives on the phone/live chat, but its possible.

      They also have a 1 per year no questions asked refund (aka change of mind or don’t like it refund). Apparently, few friends said they got it but I have yet to use it, so no idea if its true.

      Nintendo however are as bad as Sony, if not worse.

  • Was the Valve/Steam store posting the Australian consumer law link permanent? I stopped seeing it a few weeks ago on both the client and the web store.

    • From memory part of the penalties Valve had to pay was to keep that message up for a year, guessing that time is up now so they don’t have to display it anymore – they do still have to follow the refund policy though.

      • That may be the case, but historically the ACCC has insisted the sign stays up for 3 years, as MSY will attest to as they are now on their 2nd or 3rd term of having to display it everywhere after trying the same shit on a few years after the previous one expired.

        • Steam may have been able to take it down because they actually implemented a proper return policy rather than continuing to try to weasel out of returns.

          • Ah but the ACCC doesn’t have jurisdiction there, so as long as they’re not screwing Aussies anymore why would they care 🙂

          • Because the EU is suing them over the same sorts of tricks they pulled here. Enough jurisdictions sue a company over the same breaches of law, eventually it should cost them enough to just comply with local laws in every region. EA will be watching this. Ubisoft will be watching this. All the big ones will be. Shareholders will notice the cost of fighting local laws will outweigh the gains, turn on directors and vote them out.

            Honestly, I think the one that won’t need suing repeatedly is Microsoft. They found out in the late 90s/ early 2000s what the cost of fucking with governments was.

  • It’s not just ‘less than 2 hours’ for Valve, it also has to be within a certain period of time of having purchased it, otherwise I’d have gotten refunds on my epic backlog.

    • They did have a grace period for a while, after the service was first implemented. I was able to get refunds on some godawful shit that I had a grudge against and didn’t want staining my library.

      Still couldn’t get one for Towns, though… the one I wanted it for the most.

      Towns was the very first game I ever tried to get refunded, before refunds were an official ‘thing.’ It was a failed and abandoned ‘early access’ title that didn’t actually get registered under the (brand new at the time) early access program.

      • Hmm… early access raises a different problem. I mean by their very nature they’re not a finished product. That’s a difficult issue really. On the face of it, I’d be saying they should be exempt from ACL because you’re taking a punt on something that is absolutely not complete, probably full of bugs and potentially never going to be released.

        But on the other hand, if they are exempt from refunds then it’s a perfect scam mechanism. Release a dodgy game that literally doesn’t run but has nice screenshots, rake in money until everyone catches on, then do the same with a different title.

    • I got a redund off valce for a 5 month old game 2 weeks ago (bought it in a sale and has been sitting in my pile of shame) i requested steam wallet funds instead of cash, it took 3 days to come through but they did.

      • Fair nuff! I was just going from all the information from Valve themselves on their site so I didn’t try it personally.

        Sooooo much backlog.

        • I was a bit worried because if they didn’t refund it. I might not partake in their sales again. I’ll wish list dozens of games I’d like to play one day and then wait for the email that says it is 50% or more off.

  • Yes. Yessssss. YES.
    Make them pay, ACCC. Make them pay. Strike a blow for the exploited, powerless consumer!

  • I’ve only asked for 1 refund from Sony. THPS5 was on sale for like $8. I knew it was bad but for $8 I’ll give anything a go. But my god it was a steaming pile. On the store the description was all about competing online against other skaters. But the servers were shut down or not working. I used that reason to ask for a refund and they refunded me. I had no issue at all.

    • I guess half an hour of an employee’s time spent arguing about it with you on the phone would cost them more than the $8 😛 It would be interesting to see if you found it as easy with a $100 game.

    • I’m curious when you got that refund? As in what month/year? The problems with Sony seem to be older attempts at refunds (2017 seems to be the date I keep seeing) so maybe they’ve got their act together?

  • I requested a refund for the steaming pile of garbage called “Anthem”. Sony refused. I contacted the NSW Department of Fair Trading. Once the DFT contacted me, I had a refund inside of 24 hours.

  • I work for an company whoms HQ is based overseas, and as an Australian I always bring up consumer law to our customers whenever it’s a manufacturing defect issue and they say “Awww but me one year’s warranty is over, ain’t it?”.

    We’re not allowed to bring up consumer law, but I do it anyway.

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