Court Says Sony Is Free To Change Its Terms Of Service Because Accessing PSN Is A Choice
from the companies-own-you dept
Last year, Sony changed its terms of service for accessing the PlayStation Network. Like many other companies, part of the changed terms was a requirement to take disputes to arbitration, rather than court. These clauses are pretty popular for some obvious reasons: the companies almost always win (perhaps because the arbitrator wants to get hired in the future, and implicitly recognizes the big company is likely to call him again — not the random individual who has a dispute with the big company). On top of that, it’s a lot cheaper than litigation. That part is a good thing, but arbitration hearings seem to be so one-sided that they’re often not worth it.
Some folks were not at all happy about this and sought to file a class action lawsuit against Sony for the change — but that lawsuit has been (pretty quickly) rejected by the court, suggesting that the main guy suing failed to show evidence of any harm. In an interesting move, the court found that the fact that you lost access to the network if you didn’t agree to the new terms isn’t evidence of any harm, but rather a choice. Of course, that seems a bit extreme. It opens up possibilities for companies to more or less corner users into unpleasant situations. Just change the terms and anyone can be excluded.
I’m not a fan of mandatory arbitration clauses or class action lawsuits like this where “harm” is pretty tough to show. In the end, though, it does seem like Sony should be able to choose and change its terms of service. The real issue is that it chose consumer-unfriendly options, and in a better world, less draconian alternatives would spring up to help treat consumers right. It’s hard to side with Sony here (or in most situations), but the lawsuit itself does seem like a stretch.