Industry Gamers reported that Sony is updating the user agreement on PSN today. These updates include a line that blocks users from filing class-action lawsuits against the company and forces them into arbitration instead.
The update reads as follows:
“ANY DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCEEDINGS, WHETHER IN ARBITRATION OR COURT, WILL BE CONDUCTED ONLY ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS AND NOT IN A CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION OR AS A NAMED OR UNNAMED MEMBER IN A CLASS, CONSOLIDATED, REPRESENTATIVE OR PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL LEGAL ACTION, UNLESS BOTH YOU AND THE SONY ENTITY WITH WHICH YOU HAVE A DISPUTE SPECIFICALLY AGREE TO DO SO IN WRITING FOLLOWING INITIATION OF THE ARBITRATION. THIS PROVISION DOES NOT PRECLUDE YOUR PARTICIPATION AS A MEMBER IN A CLASS ACTION FILED ON OR BEFORE AUGUST 20, 2011.”
“IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THE BINDING ARBITRATION AND CLASS ACTION WAIVER IN THIS SECTION 15, YOU MUST NOTIFY SNEI IN WRITING WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE THAT YOU ACCEPT THIS AGREEMENT. YOUR WRITTEN NOTIFICATION MUST BE MAILED TO 6080 CENTER DRIVE, 10TH FLOOR, LOS ANGELES, CA 90045, ATTN: LEGAL DEPARTMENT/ARBITRATION AND MUST INCLUDE: (1) YOUR NAME, (2) YOUR ADDRESS, (3) YOUR PSN ACCOUNT NUMBER, IF YOU HAVE ONE, AND (4) A CLEAR STATEMENT THAT YOU DO NOT WISH TO RESOLVE DISPUTES WITH ANY SONY ENTITY THROUGH ARBITRATION.”
Sony communications manager Patrick Seybold told Destructoid that this was a normal clause that helps consumers in the long run stating, “This language in our TOS is common and similar to that of many other service related Terms of Service Agreements. It is designed to benefit both the consumer and the company by ensuring that there is adequate time and procedures to resolve disputes.”
Read all of the changes here.
Analysis: Well, well, well, Sony. Getting smart, are we? Let me translate this: If you have an issue and want to sue Sony using a class action lawsuit, you can’t. You have to go to arbitration first. If you don’t want to be bound by this, you have to write Sony through old-fashioned postal mail and say, “Hey, I don’t want to resolve any dispute I have with Sony through arbitration.” And you have to do that within thirty days of accepting the agreement. So people have until October 15 to get this off their agreement, assuming they accept the new agreement right away.
Honestly, I don’t see this changing much. Many companies have this line or something similar in their own Terms of Service Agreements. This isn’t anything new or shocking for that matter. What’s most shocking is that Sony took this long to put this line in there. This is a relatively big money saver for Sony, I imagine. It does make Sony look extremely shady, though, adding this in there after they lost a few high-profile court cases this year. What this does, most of all, is make it harder for people to sue Sony, which should drive down costs for the consumer because there should be less frivolous cases (emphasis on should). In the case of a class-action lawsuit at least against a company like Sony, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of clients are represented by one legal force. Under TOS like this, however, everyone would have to get their own lawyer and spend a crapload more time, money, etc., in court proceedings. Not many people can afford that, or if they can afford a legal force, it probably won’t be on any level near the kind that Sony can drum up.
Should this be legal? I’m not sure, but it is—especially since you can opt out. On the one hand, it should reduce the amount of stupid lawsuits that I’m sure Sony gets. On the other, what we have here is consumers agreeing to terms that limit their own rights as consumers… which doesn’t make sense, and could seriously screw over the consumer. I do wonder how well this would hold up in court, though. If for example Sony lost a shitload of its users’ personal information, would this hold up in court, especially given the nature of the case? I would hope not. I’ve never heard of TOS agreements meaning all that much; after all, they’re not signed or anything. Then again, I’m no lawyer, and it was ruled that AT&T can force arbitration and block class-action lawsuits, so… I guess maybe they do mean something, at least some of the time.
But in the end, nothing’s going to change. Even if people do get upset about it, they’ll sign the TOS, keep using PSN, and keep buying Sony products. It’s whatever.