Sony’s ‘No-Sue’ Defense: AT&T Got Away with It, So We Can Too
By Matt Peckham
Sony, Sony, Sony…so your defense for sticking a “you can’t sue us if you want to use us” clause in your PlayStation Network terms and conditions is essentially “AT&T got away with it, so we can, too?” This is what we get, people. Shame on us, because this is what we get.
A quick summary, if you’re just joining us: To access Sony’s PlayStation Network, you have to agree to Sony’s terms and conditions, just as you generally do any online service. Over time, those terms and conditions change—again, nothing surprising about that. Each time Sony issues an update to the PS3, you have to accept the often revised terms and conditions again. Fail to do so and you’re effectively barred from accessing the PSN. Standard stuff, no harms or fouls to speak of.
Until the last update, wherein Sony added a section essentially forbidding anyone from litigating a dispute with the company in court. Don’t accept the terms and you can’t use the service. Accept the terms, and you have 30 days to notify Sony in writing (by snail mail) to opt out. Yep, Sony could’ve included an opt-out checkbox in the electronic version, but nope, they don’t want you opting out, so they’re making doing so as difficult as possible.
Sound legally dubious? I thought so, but it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t. In fact a Sony spokesperson tells CNN the reason the company suddenly inserted the section is because the Supreme Court recently gave the idea the thumbs up.
“The Supreme Court recently ruled in the AT&T case that language like this is enforceable,” said the Sony spokesperson. “The updated language in the TOS is designed to benefit both the consumer and the company by ensuring that there is adequate time and procedures to resolve disputes.”
I’ll give Sony this: They’re not mincing words.
The suit against AT&T emerged in 2006, brought by customers upset with AT&T for charging state taxes on a cell phone advertised as free. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 (along ideological lines, with conservatives in favor and liberals opposed) in April of this year that customers could be bound by arbitration clauses or contracts, whether the state law permits a class action lawsuit or not.
The decision was and remains extremely controversial, as will Sony’s followup adoption for the PSN and citation of the court’s decision as an excuse. Where do I stand? In flat opposition to the move, which I’ve called anti-consumer, because it is. I’ve still not pulled the update down, and when I do, I’ll be opting out by mail, despite the odds (probably one in a gazillion) that I’d ever bring a lawsuit against Sony.
If you want to opt out, too, here’s what you need to do, within 30 days of clicking “I accept” on the latest terms and conditions:
Send a letter to the following address that includes your name, address, PSN account ID, and a “clear statement that you do not wish to resolve disputes with any Sony entity through arbitration.”
Attn: Legal Department/Arbitration
Attn: Sony Legal Department: Dispute Resolution
6080 Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045