Gaming giant Sony PlayStation has turned to Linklaters to help fend off a potential £5 billion collective action brought on behalf of some nine million U.K. PlayStation users.
The company is accused of “ripping people off” by charging them 30% commission on digital games and in-game purchases made via the PlayStation Store, according to an announcement. The collective action, filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, is being brought by consumer rights campaigner Alex Neill, who is arguing that, by “unlawfully” overcharging people, Sony breached competition law.
To defend the claim, Sony has brought in Linklaters, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
Neill is being advised by litigation boutique Milberg London, according to the announcement, with associate partner and former Mishcon de Reya managing associate Natasha Pearman overseeing the case. Milberg has instructed barristers Robert Palmer QC and Fiona Banks of Monckton Chambers.
Neill and his team have turned to Woodsford to fund the litigation.
According to the filing, Sony is accused of “abusing its market dominant position” to “impose unfair terms and conditions on PlayStation game developers and publishers”, which results in “excessive and unfair prices” for U.K. consumers.
The claimant says that, as a result, consumers have been overcharged by “potentially as much as £5 billion over the last six years”.
Sony is among the biggest and most profitable games and console manufacturers in the world, alongside rivals Nintendo, Microsoft, Apple and Tencent.
It is not the first time Sony has had to defend a legal action for its gaming arm activities. Last year, it faced similar accusations in an antitrust suit in the U.S., again for allegedly overcharging consumers.
In 2014, Sony agreed to pay $15 million to settle a proposed class action that followed a PlayStation security breach in 2011 that exposed the personal information of an estimated 30 million users.
And in 2013, a U.S. judge enforced a $300,000 settlement in a patent suit against Sony over technology that provides vibration in its PlayStation.
Pearman said in a statement: “Sony dominates the digital distribution of PlayStation games and in-game content; it has deployed an anti-competitive strategy which has resulted in excessive prices to customers that are out of all proportion to the costs of Sony providing its services.
“This claim is only possible because of the opt-out collective action regime that was introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015; a regime which Alex fought to introduce. We are looking forward to working with Alex and making sure that the regime achieves its aims of protecting and compensating consumers.”
Linklaters declined to comment. Sony Interactive Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment.