If you want to carry on using your PS3 online, you’ll have to give up some important legal rights — unless you read the small print and take action.
One of the perhaps inevitable outcomes of April’s Playstation Network hacking scandal, and Sony’s delays in revealing that personal data had been compromised, is that several class action lawsuits have been filed. For those not familiar with the concept, class action is a request that, if granted by a court, means that a case can have a single lead plaintiff but anyone held to be in similar circumstances can be attached without having to launch their own action. If the plaintiff prevails, those attached can get damages on the same basis. It’s a set-up that corporations are very wary of as it means people are not deterred from the costs and hassle of legal action, and the potential payouts can add up to a fortune.
Sony has decided it wants to head off any future class action lawsuits by simply making legal action out of the question. To that end it’s demanding all users agree to a new condition stating:
If you have a Dispute with any Sony Entity or any of a Sony Entity’s officers, directors, employees and agents that cannot be resolved through negotiation within the time frame described in the “Notice of Dispute” clause below. Other than those matters listed in the Exclusions from Arbitration clause, you and the Sony Entity that you have a Dispute with agree to seek resolution of the Dispute only through arbitration of that Dispute in accordance with the terms of this Section 15, and not litigate any Dispute in court. Arbitration means that the Dispute will be resolved by a neutral arbitrator instead of in a court by a judge or jury.
In other words, if you think Sony’s breached your contract or otherwise screwed you over, you must go to arbitration: by agreeing the new conditions you give up your right to go to court.
There are several key limitations. It appears the new conditions are only being used in Canada and the US. There’s potential for a legal challenge if anyone is able to successfully argue that online play is part of the deal when you buy a PS3 (meaning you have the right to continue using the service under the existing terms and conditions, though you’d give up the right to new features.) And Sony’s wide-ranging definition of a “Dispute” likely wouldn’t hold up: for example, it attempts to exempt itself from court action over breaches of criminal law such as fraud.
Customers must tick to agree the new conditions before continuing to use the service, but there is a 30 day opt out period. While you’d think that a fair system would mean that if you can click to agree, you can click to withdraw your agreement, but it’s not that simple. Instead you must mail a letter to SNEI, 6080 Center Drive, 10th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90045, marked “Attn: Legal Department/Arbitration.” The letter has to contain your name and address, PSN account number, and confirmation that you do not agree to resolve all disputes via arbitration.
If you want to take advantage of this option, there’s a template letter available on Google Docs.