PS3 Owner Given Refund After Sony Makes PS3 Less Useful

from the what-you-thought-you-bought-is-not-what-you-now-own dept

We recently discussed how Sony has decided to eliminate some rather useful functionality from their Playstation 3 — specifically the ability to run other operating systems like Linux. This annoyed a number of PS3 owners, given that thanks to a Sony "update," the product they thought they purchased is not the product currently sitting in their living room. Sony is obviously interested in keeping their hardware locked down as part of an attempt to retain control in their fight against pirates (and apparently hobbyists). But if the console you bought suddenly does less, are you due a refund? One UK PS3 owner apparently thought so, and was able to use a law created in 2002 to get Amazon to refund about 20% of his original purchase price. The law in question specifically applies to retailers not manufacturers, and requires that goods:

  • comply with the description given by the seller and posses the same qualities and characteristics as other similar goods.
  • be fit for the purpose which the consumer requires them and which was made known to the seller at the time of purchase.

Given that Sony "made it known to the seller at the time of purchase" that the PS3 would be able to run other operating systems, Amazon ponied up the refund — without the user having to return the unit. Of course the refund will be kicked up to Sony, who isn’t going to want a significant chunk of the UK suddenly demanding their money back. So the question then becomes whether Sony backs down and re-instates a feature many of their customers found useful, or just points to their user agreement. Said agreement claims Sony has the legal authority to do whatever the hell they’d like if the changes are applied in order to "prevent access to unauthorized or pirated content."

Less broad consumer protection laws in the States means users here probably won’t see refunds, but you may see your obligatory dollar or two should Sony’s decision result in a class action lawsuit.

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Companies: amazon, sony

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Comments on “PS3 Owner Given Refund After Sony Makes PS3 Less Useful”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

Loss Leader

The problem is that the gaming platforms treat the hardware as a Loss Leader. The console is usually sold at or below cost in the expectation that players will be locked into buying overpriced games.

The real threat to Sony was that alternative gaming environments were starting to form. Running Linux on your system meant that there could be people supplying games and not paying Sony royalties.

DCX2 says:

Re: Loss Leader

The real threat to Sony was that alternative gaming environments were starting to form. Running Linux on your system meant that there could be people supplying games and not paying Sony royalties.

Other OS had very limited access to the graphics hardware, so you couldn’t write any decent games for Linux. There was no risk of Sony falling short on royalties.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Loss Leader

The entire change came just after a hacker managed to get full memory access to the system. This made it (theoretically) possible to get past the security on PS3 games – allowing people to copy and distribute forgeries.

Now, the hack was not there yet. Sony did this as a preemptive measure. Given all of the hoopla over the issue, I would not be surprised if they have their engineers verifying they amount of risk and coming up with a better way to block it without eliminating the feature.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Isn't the EULA less enforcable in Europe?

I could be mistaken here, hopefully some of your readers from the other side of the pond can chime in.
I was under the impression that it wasn’t possible for consumers to waive their consumer protections, regardless of what any contract might say.

If that’s the case (and it should be in the states as well) then Sony can point to their license agreement until they are blue in the face. It wouldn’t be worth the bits they use to store it.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“blame the hackers cheaters and scammers dont blame sony”

Hacker, one, singular. Only one person had hacked the system so far. The hack didn’t even allow running copied games. Sony saw a potential breach and freaked out.

The problem now is that Sony threw down the gauntlet. Now the hackers will start looking at the PS3. In fact, the new firmware has already been hacked to allow back the other OS option. So, instead of one hacker who wasn’t even planning on releasing the hack until it was actually useful, they have many, many more.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

Hackers like a challenge, and getting homebrew to run is a challenge. By providing Other OS, they removed the incentive to hack the PS3. There were a few people trying to poke holes in the hypervisor so they could gain control of the 3d hardware, but I don’t think anyone met with much success.

Removing Other OS is a challenge to the hacking community. And it’s a challenge that Sony will lose, because you can’t beat someone who has passion for what they do.

Besides, the “online gaming experience” is already ruined by juveniles shouting profanity all the time, by campers and griefers, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Running Linux on your system meant that there could be people supplying games and not paying Sony royalties.”

Like all the people playing DOSbox games on their yellow dog loads? I bet sony is losing mad money to my commodore 64 version of zaxxon. Because there aint no playing pirated PS3 games through linux…yet.

I hope they continue to encourage Geohot, because this kind of overreaction makes me believe he was close.

Overcast (profile) says:

I didn’t realize you could do this with the PS3 until recently. I would have bought one, if you still could.

Oh well 🙂

“Running Linux on your system meant that there could be people supplying games and not paying Sony royalties.”

So in my case – that means, not only will I not be buying any games, which of course, I would have bought some – but I won’t be buying the hardware either.

Coyote says:

Amazon isn't responsible.

If the law applies to retailers, not manufacturers, and it was Sony that removed functionality, there is no legal reason Amazon OR Sony are obligated to offer refunds.

Amazon sold the PS3 based what Sony said the product did at the time of purchase. Sony modified the product later. Amazon has acted in good faith all the way, so they aren’t liable, and the law doesn’t apply to Sony, so they aren’t liable.

Go after Sony if you can find a way to do it legally, but leave Amazon out of your butthurt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Amazon isn't responsible.

The logic is that there **is** recourse for significantly changing a product removing its ability to do its entended uses.

Consider this: If you are in a car accident and they get you back to good health but you can not lift your writing hand over your head anymore, that is close enough, right? Of course not, you have lost significant ability though everything else works enough. That is what Sony has done.

Now, about Amazon. Why not make them feel the pain? You want an advocate? The ones who are feeling your pain are the best. When Amazon says enough, and they tell Sony they will BLOCK ALL SONY PRODUCT FROM THIER SITE… do you think Sony will listen when they don’t care about the consumer?

If Sony had been smart they would have done a PS3+ type deal and phased out support for the PS3. Left the other OS on the regular and left everything currently working alone. But made a paid or free upgrade to the PS3+ software which does remove that ability. But all new games would require the PS3+ version running to play. Would make it really easy then, because Sony can change thier future products without destroying thier existing product.

RRCUK76 says:

The European Union love to have a pop at big, non EU corporations (Microsoft being a good example). The issue will boil down to whether or not you actually have to install the update that removes the “other OS” feature. Sony will claim it`s optional, lawyers will claim the console is left so crippled by not installing it (no online gaming/playstation store etc) that in effect it`s mandatory. The poster previously is correct in stating that (in the EU at least) you can`t sign away your statutory rights, so whatever Sony`s licence agreement says, law takes precedence. Presumably anyone who bought a PS3 EU-wide from Amazon can now claim their 20% back, question is what will other retailers do and will a case end up in the courts. This has all the makings of a publicity and financial disaster for Sony.

Anonymous Coward says:

A slashdot commenter claims to be the customer in question and says he didn’t request a refund, just asked Amazon their opinion on the matter in light of the law. fourth or so comment down the page currently. He also says the retailer is on the hook since they are the ones who made an agreement with the customer, but if the vendor is at fault the retailer can take it back up the chain to them.

Kogito says:

It seems to me that Sony should’ve left well enough alone. People will always find new & different ways to use things. If that means loading a different OS on your PS3 then so be it. Sony shipped them with this ability & used it as a sellijng point to the US government. Any mistake is with Sony embracing the possibility of the PS3 being used for alternate purposes. I think utilmately Sony is jealous that someone figured out a better way to use their product before they did. Too bad. Leave it be & let us have some fun!



“blame the hackers cheaters and scammers dont blame sony.”

heh you sir are tam’s evil twin aren’t you. NO Its not to allow anyone to do as they wish wiht what you create.
AND htis so great a company also gave you all a ROOTKIT to play with so dont get high and mighty on hackers

if you remove function we , enable. SONY can get fucked up the butt for all i care. same with all there hollywood friends

i hope every UK citizen sues for money back keeps the ps3 as that other guy did and then next gen goes and doesnt get the next offering form SONY, just to really rub it in. THEY really are wrecking themselves.

c’est la vi

darkbridger says:

Sent demand today

I sent a letter to Sony today demanding they either find a way to settle this issue with me or I am pursuing legal action. (they can settle with me by reinstating linux, paying me $150, or making the update undoable, or offer another compromise).

They are in direct violation of consumer protection laws, none of us should just be taking this sitting down.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Australian Statutory Warranty

Interestingly nearly the same statute law is found in Australia under the Trade practices Act, and that there is already a complaint by a few PS3 owners before the appropriate authority (Namely the ACCC).

Even more interesting is that It comes under a statutory RIGHT where the “so called” Sony PS3 EULA is nullable in that these rights cannot be refused, changed or limited by the retailer, distributor, or manufacturer and are for the life of the good/service. These Rights state amongst others that that Goods and Services must match the description under which they were sold FOREVER, and must be fit for their purpose. Also for goods you are entitled to enjoy quiet possession of the goods and to own the goods outright. They also apply to both new and second-hand goods.

Because they apply to both second hand and new goods, the manufacturer and not just the Point of Purchase retail are responsible for any breaches of these rights. The remedies interestingly are at the behest of the consumer for household/personal goods and can be either repair, refund or replacement (what a lot of people in Australia call the “Three R’s”)

In the Case of the Sony Ps3 removal of the “Other OS” enhancement which was advertised as a feature on all “phat” Ps3’s, this then equates to an absolute breach of those rights since they do not match the description under which they were purchased. Yes Sony allowed the costumer to NOT remove it, though the non-removal would then disallow other advertised features (and therefore destroy quite possession) namely playing of games over networks, and in some cases not allowing BlueRay ability and some games to even play in local mode, which then becomes it’s own breach (or two).

Therefore Sony might have a bit of a problem with Australian consumer laws in that Australian users could either ask for and Sony are required to give either a Refund (full or part dependant on whether the customer still wants to keep the console), a replacement (which in his instance is not available) or repair. The repair option would mean that Australian consumers would have something that no other worldwide consumer would enjoy creating an interesting anomaly.

Any Australian ‘phat’ Ps3 console owners [this does NOT affect slim PS3 consoles since they never had the feature in first place] I would advise if they wanted to contact the Fair trading Department in their state or to go to the ACCC website on “how to complain” . Firstly though you should contact Sony and/or the original seller if they are still available to voice your concerns and expectations and see what they say and as long as you are polite, calm and persistant who knows you too might get a percentage of a refund back.. Or more of the ORIGINAL price you paid (anywhere from $799Au to $499Au for new)

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Australian Statutory Warranty

Thanks for your informative post, G Thompson. If things play out favorably for the consumers in Australia and U.K., perhaps the rest of us will indirectly benefit — it would seem that a remedy for localized markets would over-complicate firmware maintenance for Sony and perhaps they will make global move for the better.

I’ve seen plenty of U.S. based license and service agreements in my day, and unfortunately it seems U.S. businesses have to write their own “Quiet Enjoyment” clauses into each contract.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: Australian Statutory Warranty

Many states in the US have similar laws. They may not explicitly call out the practice of bait and switch, but they certainly make unfair or deceptive acts or practices unlawful. Some provide for a treble-damages remedy, as well as a public investigation and enforcement option. This is the stuff AG-led class actions are made from.

I am curious about your description of this law applying to “goods.” Generally, goods are any tangible personal property. It is at least an open question as to whether intangible personal property (including copyrights) are “goods”. They are not “services”.

If they are “goods,” isn’t DRM a violation of this law? It permits the “content owner” to disable your access to the content. Admittedly, you agree to be bound by a DRM agreement that permits this conduct by the content owner, but isn’t that in the nature of an impermissible waiver of your right to have the good function as it did at purchase?

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Australian Statutory Warranty

You make a good point re Goods and Services and non tangible property such as IP [well actually it’s nearly always IP 😉 ] which is why in Australia it is perfectly legal for consumers to purchase, install, sell, and use ‘mod chips’ that circumvent anti-piracy technology (both TPMs and DRMs) that are built into either game consoles or DVD consoles when ONLY used to overcome region-coding measures since they restrict the use of legally purchased DVDs and games that are otherwise legal in other regions. Whether the EULA states you can or cannot.

This was settled by the High Court of Australia on appeal in a case that coincidentally was about anti-circumvention devices in Sony Plytations (PS1’s) [Stevens v Kabushiki Kaisha Sony Computer Entertainment [2005] HCA 58 found at ] and changed our Copyright law to reflect the case as well. Wikipedia has an ok summary [ ]

This case allowed importation of multi-region CD/DVD players into Australia and also the modding of consoles to play legally owned games from other regions as well as legal backups of originals you owned. This also allowed music CD’s to be legally copied and media switched as long as it was for backup or personal use purposes. Though strangely because of the Treaties with the USA we cannot legally make backups of DVD’s or BlueRay *eyeroll*

As for other non-tangible goods and services it is probably better to look at the actual interpretation of those terms under the actual Trade Practices Act itself [ ].
Goods are basically anything tangible though Public utility services like Electricity which is invisible and intangible is shockingly *pun intended* included. Services on the other hand are basically anything else. Though their are some exceptions, and outright violations of IP by unlawful measures are covered in other acts. Which is why the above Stevens v Sony case had to go all the way to our Highest Court for guidance. Isn’t IP/Trade law fun. HA!

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