How PS3 users can protect their rights

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.

[Picture Source: Maveric2003 (CC)]

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6 Responses to How PS3 users can protect their rights

  1. Where does one find your PSN account number? I have two PS3's and will need to send this in once for my console and one for my wife's.

    • Yah where MS fucks you over as well. One of their updates bricked my 360, called them up…sorry system out of warranty. 3 days later PS3 on woot.com score.

  2. I don't for a moment think that Sony will be the only one with this kind of fine print… they'll just be the first. Pretty soon they'll all have it and then what will gamers buy? There won't be alternatives.

    Frankly, this kind of thing is sneaky and ought to be illegal. There's absolutely no reason that a corporation should have the ability to put their customers in a position where they can't sue or demand damages for what amounts to a faulty product. It defeats the whole purpose of the consumer protection laws when these kinds of things are allowed. =_=;;

    • I couldn't agree more. We are at the point where these companies can demand almost anything in their unilateral boiler plate contracts, so long as the qualify it in 20 pages of legalese and have a mandatory arbitration clause.
      It's the same things already being done by wireless carriers. I am all for voting with my wallet, but when they all do it, you can't. And I don't see how it is fathomable to be able to consent to signing away your right to court.

      • Its annoying, but all it takes is for these cases to be released and all of a sudden everyone jumps on the bandwagon, Sony loses millions. Im sorry, but in this situation its the money-grabbing-scummy-sueculture-gits which are causing Sony to take this action, and any other company would do the same.

        Damages for online play? Puh-lease. Servers go down all the time, sometimes services are not avaliable – and there ARE people working on getting these things back up but it just is not always a 24/7 failsafe service, people should have to agree with that.

        Sony already compensated players, people shouldnt be so greedy as to go for more.

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