A consumer rights group is suing Sony for charging a 30 percent commission on all digital purchases made through the UK PlayStation Store. This is basically a class action lawsuit seeking to distribute billions of dollars among players who have used the PlayStation UK store since August 2016.
According to Sky News, the lawsuit was filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal on August 19. “Sony dominates the digital distribution of PlayStation games and in-game content,” said one of the lawyers leading the lawsuit. “It has deployed an anti-competitive strategy that has resulted in excessive pricing for customers disproportionate to Sony’s cost of providing its services.” Kotaku contacted Sony for a comment but got none at the time of publishing.
The argument here is that Sony has a “near monopolyover the sale of digital games, especially PlayStation games, and so it should not use that power to impose unreasonable prices on consumers. Sony isn’t the only platform to force a 30 percent take (most major storefronts do, with the notable exception of the Epic Games Store). We’ll have to wait and see if the courts confirm that the PlayStation ecosystem is a monopoly, and whether that will impact other walled gardens like app stores or Steam. Kotaku contacted the legal team about what it considers a reasonable commission but received no comment at the time of publication.
The plaintiffs point out that gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the UK and Sony is hurting consumers who can’t afford their games. “We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis and consumer wallets are under pressure like never before,” said Alex Neill, a consumer rights advocate who filed the lawsuit. While I sympathize with how inflation makes it difficult for players to pay for more games, I’m not sure I’d lump gaming with a cost of living crisis. Paying rent is a necessity. To play God of War Ragnarok not at launch.
The last major lawsuit against the 30 percent commission was filed by: Epic games against Apple. Apple had deleted Fortnite from the App Store after the publisher attempted to implement its own payment method, circumventing the store’s ability to collect 30 percent of the game’s microtransactions. The court ruled that Apple could not force microtransactions to go through the App Store, but also ruled that Apple did not violate the antitrust law.
But this lawsuit took place in a US court. Perhaps the lawsuit against Sony will do better in the British legal system.