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What just happened? A $7.9 billion lawsuit against Sony over claims the company "ripped people off" by overcharging consumers for games and in-game purchases from its PlayStation Store is heading to trial after the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
Consumer rights champion Alex Neill launched the suit against Sony back in August 2022. She accused the Japanese giant of breaching competition law by abusing its market power and imposing unfair terms and conditions on game developers and publishers, thereby pushing up the selling price of titles for consumers.
The "ripping people off" part of the argument stems from the fact consumers are required to buy digital PlayStation games and DLC from the PlayStation Store, where Sony takes a 30% cut of all sales. Because Sony takes this percentage, it's alleged that buyers are paying higher prices than they should be. The suit also says that the amount Sony takes is disproportionate to the costs incurred by the company when facilitating the sales.
The class action suit claims that consumers have been overcharged by £5 billion ($5.9 billion) plus interest over the last six years for PS Store games and DLC. It adds that around nine million people have been affected. Should the claim prove successful, each person could receive between £67 ($84) and £562 ($704) in damages.
Sony tried to block the case, arguing that it was "flawed from start to finish," but the CAT has just granted approval for it to go to trial. However, the tribunal did stipulate that anyone who made PlayStation Store purchases after the case was filed last year should be removed from the proposed claimant class.
"This is the first step in ensuring consumers get back what they're owed as a result of Sony breaking the law. It is significant that the competition court has recognised Sony must explain its actions by ordering them to trial," said Neill.
"PlayStation gamers' loyalty has been taken advantage of by Sony, who has been charging them excessive prices for years. With this action, we are seeking to put a stop to this unlawful conduct and ensure customers are compensated."
The claim relies on the opt-out collective action regime introduced by the UK's Consumer Rights Act 2015. It makes it easier for consumers and businesses to bring private actions for damages suffered due to competition law infringements on behalf of an entire class of claimants - in this case, PlayStation Store users.
A similar case accusing Sony of anti-competitive behavior was thrown out by a US court last year as the plaintiffs failed to prove that the company violated the Sherman Act, which outlaws monopolization.
If you live in the UK and purchased any digital games or in-game content between August 19, 2016, and August 19, 2022, you can join the suit for the chance to receive compensation.