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Australia tells Sony Europe that EU and UK laws don't apply to sales to Australian consumers

Peter Lee

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun proceedings in the Federal Court against Sony Interactive Entertainment Network Europe Limited (Sony Europe).


The complaint relates to limitations on warranty for Sony's online sales of PlayStation products that appear on its website and have been notified to Australian consumers in dealings with them.

It's far, far more complicated than the ACCC suggests and for global retailers it's a major threat.

The ACCC alleges that from around September 2017, Sony Europe told consumers seeking a refund for faulty games that it did not have to provide refunds for games that had been downloaded or if 14 days had passed since purchase.

Sony Europe also allegedly told consumers it did not have to provide refunds unless the game developer told the consumer the game was irreparably faulty or otherwise authorised a refund. It also told consumers that it could provide refunds using virtual PlayStation currency instead of money.

The ACCC’s case is that these representations are false or misleading and do not reflect the consumer guarantee rights afforded to all Australian
consumers under the Australian Consumer Law.

Online sales by companies operating in the EU are governed by EU law. The EU's Europa website has a consumer orientated tool to help consumers understand their rights. It's at https://europa.eu/youreurope/c.... Under the "brexit" agreement as it is presently formed, the EU's consumer laws will continue to operate intact for the foreseeable future. But, it is important to understand that the EU law is aimed at protecting EU consumers.

The Europa page says "You always have the right to a minimum 2-year guarantee at no cost, regardless of whether you bought your goods online, in a shop or by mail order. If goods you bought anywhere in the EU turn out to be faulty or do not look or work as advertised, the seller must repair or replace them free of charge or give you a price reduction or a full refund. You can usually only ask for a partial or full refund when it is not possible to repair or replace the goods."

However, it's not quite as simple as it seems (although, obviously, it's not simple at all): the UK has not fully adopted the Directive. Under the UK's current Sale of Goods Act 1969, consumers can demand a refund in the case of defective product. Moreover, because of the money triangle that is created by the way that credit card purchases work, consumers paying by credit (but not pre-paid cards - so called "gift cards" - or debit cards) can apply to their credit card issuer for a full refund for defective goods.

The EU protections apply to consumers in the EU: it follows, then, that a purchaser in Australia does not have the protection of EU law. However, the UK's Sale of Goods Act does not have that geographical restriction: indeed, it applies to sales within the UK. So, if Sony say that sales are made in the UK and the consumer accepts it, then UK law applies (it's a bit more complicated than that but it's a useful starting point).

Under UK law, after six months, the burden of proof that the product is inherently flawed (a latent defect, in legal terms) falls on the purchaser. Prior to that, in the absence of signs of neglect or abuse, the burden of proof that the product is not inherently flawed falls on the seller.

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