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Sony slapped with $2.4 million fine for misleading customers

Sony has been hit with a fine in Australia for misleading customers about its refund policy.

In a statement on Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it fined Sony Europe 3.5 million Australian dollars ($2.4 million U.S.) for not giving refunds to customers for digital game purchases that players said were faulty. The ACCC also accused Sony of refusing to provide refunds to customers for games because they requested refunds more than 14 days after purchase.

“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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement.

The complaint also cited Sony’s Terms of Service, which between October 2017 and May 2019 did not specify that consumers would have the same return rights on digital games as they would on physical disc purchases.

“Consumers who buy digital products online have exactly the same rights as they would if they made the purchase at a physical store,” Sims said.

The ACCC launched an investigation into Sony’s practices after several people said Sony declined to provide a refund “unless the game developer authorized it.” Another person told the ACCC that Sony offered a refund in virtual PlayStation currency and not actual 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,” Sims said.

The Australian Consumer Law is a broad statute that aims at protecting people in their dealings with companies. It specifically bans deceptive business practices and unfair contract terms. Refunds are allowed on any product that becomes inoperable or faulty through no fault of the customer.

This isn’t the first time the Australian Consumer Law targeted a game company. In 2016, Valve was accused of “misleading or deceptive conduct” when it, too, failed to provide consumers with refunds on digitally purchased products. Valve lost an appeal attempt to overturn the ruling.

Sony hasn’t commented on the ACCC fine and did not respond to a Digital Trends request for comment.

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