Sony Europe has been fined approximately $2.4 million in U.S. dollars for misleading Australian consumers regarding refunds for digital PlayStation 4 games. The company was taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last year after customers were told that refunds could not be issued after a digital game was downloaded, or if 14 days had passed since the date of purchase. Other consumers were told that refunds could not be given if specific developers had not authorized them. Sony also cannot force consumers to accept refunds in the form of digital credit, unless consumers request it.
In a statement, ACCC chair Rod Sims elaborated on the ruling.
"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," said Sims.
Sony Europe has admitted liability, and will comply with the ruling. While the total is fairly small in the grand scheme of things, it does seem to indicate that big changes are happening for video games in the region. The ruling against Sony follows a ruling against EB Games in Australia regarding refunds for Bethesda's Fallout 76. As a result, EB Games will have to offer refunds to gamers that previously requested them.
Refunds for video games, particularly digital titles, have caused a lot of headaches for consumers. Earlier this year, Nintendo won a lawsuit in Germany that would have forced the company to pay back money from cancelled digital pre-orders. While the ruling was a win for Nintendo, it was a loss for consumers, who will be forced to exercise extra caution before pre-ordering digital games.
It's important to note that these rulings are taking place outside of North America, where consumer laws are quite different. It will be interesting to see if the success of these cases prompts more cases to be brought in other territories. As it currently stands, video game refunds can be very difficult to come by. In a best-case scenario, consumers in North America are stuck with trade-in credit, while most companies offer nothing as far as digital purchases are concerned. Earlier this year, GOG introduced an incredibly generous 30-day return policy on digital games, but no other video game retailers have followed that example.
Should video game companies offer greater opportunities for gamers to return their purchases? Should digital purchases be treated the same way that physical games are? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!
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