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This $5 Billion Lawsuit Claims Sony Is Ripping People Off

Sony has been a dominant force in the video game industry ever since it launched the first PlayStation, but the addition of online stores has changed the way many people buy games. Sure, players can still order physical discs online or buy them in stores, but now digital game sales are starting to edge past physical ones (per Beyond Games). This new medium for selling games has also changed the way that companies divide profits since Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo are not only serving as the platforms that games can be played on, but are now the stores that they are sold through as well. These markups can be quite high, which has led to some contention between these companies and both the developers who make the games and the consumers who buy them. This was more or less the ethos for the Epic v. Apple lawsuit in which Epic accused Apple of having a monopoly that allowed it to overcharge developers for the use of its storefront.

Now, it appears that there is a new major lawsuit in the works. The UK-based suit is being led by Alex Neill, a consumer rights champion and the current Group Chief Executive of a consumer tech organization called The Resolver Group. She has started an online campaign called PlayStation/You Owe Us and is suing Sony for £5 billion on behalf of the 8.9 million PlayStation users in the UK. PlayStation is no stranger to lawsuits pertaining to its digital store, but the price tag on this one is certainly a doozie.

Neill accuses Sony of charging too much

The claim was filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal on August 19, 2022 alleging that Sony is guilty of five levels of misconduct: a near monopoly on digital game sales through the PlayStation Store, using it's dominance to force developers and publishers to adhere to strict terms and conditions, taking a 30% commission of every digital product sold, charging excessive prices to consumers, and also the fact that these prices are not proportionate to Sony's cost for rendering these services. The organization claims that "customers are paying too much for these digital products and that they deserve to be treated better by Sony and compensated." PlayStation/You Owe Us estimates that Sony Interactive Entertainment will have to pay between £0.6 billion and £5 billion before interest, which will ultimately result in each Proposed Class Member receiving between £67 and £562.

The host of the video games legal podcast "Virtual Legality," Richard Hoeg, suggested in an interview with Eurogamer that the case seems to be built on somewhat shaky ground, however. "First, you have the issue that each individual transaction was voluntarily made at the price(s) offered" he said. "Second, that the prices largely mirrored those across the industry at the time. Third, that the intermediary pricing (the 30 percent cut), was also mirrored by other market participants at the time." He then went on to list several other reasons why the trial may not succeed, but also acknowledged that European legislators are more interested in pursuing digital pricing as a legal issue than American ones.