Sony sued for restricting digital sales to the PlayStation Store

Posted on May 7, 2021

PlayStation manufacturer Sony is currently the subject of a new class action lawsuit regarding the PlayStation Store. As reported by Bloomberg, the suit accuses Sony of operating an unlawful monopoly by restricting sales of digital PlayStation games to the PlayStation Store, where they are able to control pricing.

In the proposed suit, it is alleged that Sony has been unlawfully monopolising digital PlayStation game sales ever since it stopped allowing third-party retailers to sell download codes for digital games two years ago. Ever since, Sony’s PlayStation Store became the only source for digital PlayStation games, without any competition to impact Sony’s prices.

“Sony’s monopoly allows it to charge supracompetitive prices for digital PlayStation games, which are significantly higher than their physical counterparts sold in a competitive retail market, and significantly higher than they would be in a competitive retail market for digital games,” the consumers said. Supracompetitive pricing refers to pricing above what can be sustained in a competitive market. In this case, the suit alleges that consumers end up paying as much as 175% more for downloadable games than for the same games purchased physically in stores from third-party retailers.

The suit is currently in its early days, and it will be a while before we learn more. Although the PlayStation Store often has sales which reduce prices substantially, the prices are still often higher by default than the same product at a physical retailer. Digital games don’t have to factor in many additional costs, like shipping and the production of the discs and cases. As such, it is often difficult to understand why digital game prices can be so high.

This isn’t the first time that Sony has gotten into trouble for anti-competitive practices. Two years ago, Sony was reprimanded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for refusing refunds for digital purchases. Consumer rights are fiercely protected in Australia; if this lawsuit picks up steam, the ACCC may step in to pressure Sony into providing more options for Australian consumers. With the advent of a digital-only model for the PS5, Sony has more control over console game pricing than ever. It will remain to be seen what impact, if any, this lawsuit ends up having on the video game industry.