This is gonna be a little hard to follow for our readers in the good ol’ United States of America, but bear with me. In other countries (Australia, for instance) the government imposes rules and regulations on the companies that operate there, in order to protect consumers against harmful or fraudulent business practices, which are sometimes referred to as “Capitalism.” These provisions are called “consumer protections,” and I understand that this might be a radical concept to quickly internalize, so I’ll wait here until you’re ready to move on to the rest of the article.
You good? Alright, well Australia’s consumer protection laws mandate that all Australians have a right to a refund, free of the bizarre and/or arbitrary limitations placed on consumers in other regions of the world. These laws apply to digital goods just as much as physical ones, and that means you get to return your video game if you don’t like it. (These laws are why many digital storefronts, like Steam, even have a refund policy in the first place.) Sony Europe, which is in charge of PlayStation sales in Australia for some reason, denied these Australian God-given rights to a total of four (4) people, and as such has been fined 3.5 million Australian Dollarydoos, which works out to $2.43 million in Washington Willies as of press time.
“Sony Europe made misleading representations to four consumers who believed they had purchased faulty PlayStation games,” reads a statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). “This occurred when Sony’s customer service representatives told them over the phone Sony Europe was not required to refund the game once it had been downloaded, or if 14 days had passed since it was purchased.”
The ACCC also concluded that Sony Europe had violated Australia’s laws by informing one of the four PlayStation customers in question that refunds were only available when the developer of the title authorized them, and by telling a fifth consumer that refunds could only be given in PlayStation store credit, rather than cash, neither of which are the case in Australia.
“Consumer guarantee rights do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded and certainly do not disappear after 14 days or any other arbitrary date claimed by a game store or developer,” according to ACCC Chair Rod Sims. “Consumers can obtain a repair, replacement or refund directly for products with a major fault from sellers and cannot simply be sent to a product developer. Refunds under the consumer guarantees must also be given in cash or money transfer if the consumer originally paid in one of those ways, unless the consumer chooses to receive store credit.”
It’s incredible, isn’t it? To us Americans it might seem like an overreaction to fine a company millions of dollars for telling five people the wrong information during customer service calls, but that’s what actual consumer protections look like in action. The “Fuck Around and Find Out” School of Corporate Accountability™ is effective and should be adopted in the United States, where companies can sell you anything they want, regardless of how shitty it is, so long as they put a tiny disclaimer on a website somewhere saying that they’re not responsible for the quality of the thing they’re selling you.