A consumer rights advocacy group is suing Sony for charging a 30 percent commission fee on all digital purchases made through the UK PlayStation Store. This is functionally a class action lawsuit that seeks to distribute billions of dollars to 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 which has resulted in excessive prices to customers that are out of all proportion to the costs of Sony providing its services.” Kotaku reached out to Sony for a comment, but did not obtain one by the time of publication.
The argument here is that Sony has a “near-monopoly” on the sale of digital games, particularly PlayStation games, and so it shouldn’t be using that power to enforce unreasonable prices on consumers. Sony is not the only platform that enforces a 30 percent take (most major storefronts do, with the notable exception of the Epic Games Store). We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the courts uphold that the PlayStation ecosystem is a monopoly, and whether or not that will have an impact on other walled gardens like app stores or Steam. Kotaku reached out to the legal team about what it considers to be a reasonable commission fee, but did not get a comment by the time of publication.
The plaintiffs point out that gaming is the biggest entertainment industry in the UK, and Sony is hurting consumers who can’t afford their games. “We’re in the midst of a cost of living crisis and the consumer purse is being squeezed like never before,” said Alex Neill, a consumer rights advocate who filed the lawsuit. While I’m sympathetic to how inflation makes it difficult for players to afford more games, I’m not sure if I would lump gaming together with a cost of living crisis. Paying rent is a necessity. Playing God of War Ragnarök on launch is not.
The last major lawsuit against the 30 percent commission was filed by Epic Games against Apple. Apple had removed Fortnite from its App Store after its publisher had tried to implement its own payment method, circumventing the store’s ability to collect 30 percent on the game’s microtransactions. The court ruled that Apple could not force microtransactions to go through the App Store, but it also stated that Apple was not in violation of antitrust law.
But this lawsuit took place in an American court. Perhaps the lawsuit against Sony will fare better in the British legal system.