A legal claim in the U.K. could see Sony pay up to £5 billion ($6 billion) in compensation for allegedly overcharging customers on its online PlayStation store since 2016. The action, brought through Britain’s Competition Appeal Tribunal, accuses Sony of abusing its market position to increase prices, as Sky News reported.
Led by the former managing director of consumer rights organization Which? UK, Alex Neill, the case includes anyone in the U.K. who has used the PlayStation Store since August 19, 2016; a figure said to be around nine million people. Each user could receive compensation of up to £562 ($664) plus any interest that may be awarded.
Speaking to Sky News, Neill said: “With this legal action I am standing up for the millions of U.K. people who have been unwittingly overcharged. We believe Sony has abused its position and ripped off its customers.”
“Gaming is now the biggest entertainment industry in the U.K., ahead of T.V., video and music and many vulnerable people rely on gaming for community and connection. The actions of Sony [are] costing millions of people who can’t afford it, particularly when we’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and the consumer purse is being squeezed like never before.”
The case hinges on the terms Sony imposes on publishers selling on the PlayStation Store. It calls them unfair and says they force prices up for consumers. Sony takes a 30% cut of all transactions on the PlayStation Store, which matches Microsoft’s amount from the Xbox store and Nintendo’s for digital Switch purchases. Google reduced its cut from 30% to 15% on the first $1 million income from the Google Play Store in 2021, which matched Apple’s previous reduction. Valve takes a 30% cut from Steam purchases but lowers this above a certain threshold the more money a game makes. The Epic Game Store is the odd one, taking just a 12% share. No companies other than Sony are named in the U.K. legal action, though Valve is facing a case in the U.S. alleging it uses its policies to keep prices high and the market under its control.
Sony has yet to comment on the case, but can you expect the company to put up a robust defense. According to Bloomberg, a U.S. federal judge threw out a similar class action lawsuit centered on the PlayStation Store. It focused not on the cut Sony takes but on the store itself was an unlawful monopoly. The plaintiffs failed to allege violations under the Sherman Act adequately but could yet amend their case.