About the claim
Essentially, since at least 19 August 2016, we believe that Sony has been exploiting its UK customers, by charging them too much for PlayStation digital games and in-game content via its control over the entire PlayStation ecosystem. We say this is a breach of competition law.
The claim is against Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Limited and Sony Interactive Entertainment Network Europe Limited. We commonly refer to these entities as the “Defendants” or “Sony” or “Sony UK”.
Companies making a profit isn’t wrong, but unlawful behaviour at the expense of their customers is. We allege Sony’s conduct in relation to PlayStation amounts to an abuse of a dominant position which is in breach of UK/EU competition law, for the following reasons:
- Sony has a near monopoly on the sale of digital games and add-on content through its control of the PlayStation Store.
- Sony uses this dominance to enforce strict terms and conditions on game developers and publishers.
- These terms allow Sony to set the price of digital games and in-game content and charge a 30% commission on every purchase of digital games and in-game content from the PlayStation Store.
- This results in excessive and unfair prices to consumers for their digital games and in-game content.
- These prices are out of all proportion to the costs of Sony providing these services to its customers.
Alex Neill is seeking compensation for anyone who purchased digital games or add-on content via the PlayStation Store between 19 August 2016 to 19 August 2022.
There are some limited exceptions to this.
If you fall within the definition of the Class (see What is the Class definition?), and are domiciled in the UK on the date of domicile to be determined by the Tribunal, you will automatically be included in the Class.
You can sign-up for updates here. If you don’t want to be part of the proceedings, further information will be provided in due course on how you can opt-out.
Alex is a consumer champion with nearly 20 years’ worth of experience leading consumer campaigns and achieving change for UK consumers. She is passionate about helping consumers to make the right choices, access support when things go wrong and get redress when things can’t be fixed.
She has held leadership roles in consumer-focused businesses and has expertise in understanding consumers and building strong, purpose-driven brands, products and services that deliver the right resolutions for all.
A passionate and approachable leader who enjoys communicating, Alex is a regular speaker at industry events concerning consumer issues and consumer rights across all sectors. She is available for comments and interviews across all consumer issues in the UK.
Alex Neill is the sole director of Alex Neill Class Representative, the not-for-profit special purpose vehicle that has been incorporated with the specific purpose of pursuing the claims against Sony.
Individuals aged 7 years old and above are allowed to sign up for a PlayStation account.
For individuals aged 7 to 17, their parent or legal guardian is responsible for accepting the Terms of Service.
As a result, we expect most Proposed Class Members will be the parent/guardian, who are also likely to have provided their credit/debit card details for purchases.
However, there may still be circumstances where individuals under 18 have made relevant purchases, i.e., because they have their own bank account with a debit card, (which we understand is available from aged 11 with some accounts). In these circumstances children and young adults between 11 – 17 years will be included in the Proposed Class but can be represented by their parent/guardian, who can take steps (as necessary) on their behalf.
We allege that Sony’s PlayStation customers who purchase digital games and add-on content via their consoles have been paying too much. We allege that Sony’s control of the PlayStation platform has led to detrimental effects for consumers, including stifling innovation and competition, and charging higher prices.
Gaming isn’t just for kids. Gaming is now the biggest entertainment industry in the UK, ahead of TV, video and music.
The business model of gaming has changed dramatically over recent years. The move from games sold as physical disks to games sold digitally, has seen the introduction of in-game content, where players must now also pay to progress, unlock more features, or customise their experience with new characters or weapons. Games are now designed to incentivise players to spend as much money as possible (including children).
The claim is being pursued on behalf of 8.9 million UK customers, to protect consumers rights and welfare, prevent Sony from continuing to extract what we allege are excessive prices from its customers and seek compensation for the overpayments we say they have made. We want to ensure that a level-playing field is established so that Sony can no longer charge what we allege are excessive prices and that competition is introduced.
This claim is important because:
- The cost-of-living crisis means the consumer purse is being squeezed now more than ever.
- 93% of children in the UK play digital games, meaning that the price of digital games is affecting families that may be struggling financially.
- This isn’t a niche issue; Sony’s conduct is affecting millions of people across age ranges.
- Their conduct is also affecting vulnerable and disabled gamers who rely on their console for community and connection.
We will be encouraging Sony to settle the claim as soon as possible so that consumers get their money back in a timely manner. However, if Sony refuses, it could be several years before we can secure compensation for consumers. We will provide updates as the claim progresses via this website. You can also sign up to receive updates.
We don’t know, but it’s possible!
It is always open to the parties to a dispute to make an out of court settlement at any point during the litigation.
If Alex settles the claim in exchange for a sum of money from Sony, that sum of money will be distributed to Class Members as directed by the Competition Appeal Tribunal and there will be more information made available about that process at the relevant time.
Sign up to keep updated here.
The Collective Proceedings Order Application Hearing was held in the Competition Appeal Tribunal on 7 – 9 June 2023. The hearing was a procedural milestone of the proposed collective proceedings and was in relation to the whether the proposed class representative and the claim should be certified. The Tribunal certified the collective proceedings to continue to full trial with Alex Neill Class Representative representing the class as its class representative on 21 November 2023. Read the full judgment here and the Collective Proceedings Order here.
Sony applied to the Tribunal for permission to appeal the Tribunal’s CPO Judgment. The Tribunal granted permission to appeal in respect of Grounds (3), (4) and (5) in relation to funding and refused permission to appeal in respect of Grounds (1) and (2). The appeal should not impact the Tribunal’s timetable for this case.
About the Class
The Class is defined as “All PlayStation Console users domiciled in the United Kingdom, or their UK domiciled personal representative who, during the Claim Period, made one or more Relevant Purchases” (referred to below as “the Class” or “Class Members” as appropriate).
For these purposes:
- PlayStation Console means: any games console distributed by the Defendants and sold under the PlayStation brand which is capable of accessing and downloading digital games or add-on content from the PlayStation Store.
- The Claim Period means: between 19 August 2016 to 19 August 2022.
- All persons who fall within the definition of the Class and who are domiciled in the UK on the date of domicile to be determined by the Tribunal are to be included in the Class.
- All persons who fall within the definition of the Class and who are not domiciled in the UK on the date of domicile to be determined by the Tribunal are to be permitted to opt into the proceedings.
Relevant Purchases means:
- Any purchase of digital games or add-on content made in the PlayStation Store for which a PlayStation user pays a charge to access or download in the UK (a “Relevant Purchase”).
- PlayStation Store means: Sony’s proprietary electronic storefront within the PlayStation Network, which is pre-installed on all PlayStations (since the launch of the PlayStation 4) and allows users to purchase: (i) digital copies of games to play on their console without the need to own any physical media; and (ii) add-on content for particular games.
If you fit within the definition of the Class but are under 18 years old, you will need a parent or legal guardian (“Responsible Adult”) to read the Notice of Collective Proceedings Order. You can read it too and ask your Responsible Adult anything you do not understand. It is important that your Responsible Adult reads this because it talks about your legal rights and options. Your Responsible Adult might need to take steps, and they won’t be able to do so after 26 April 2024 at 5pm.
If you meet the definition of the Class for the collective claim (see What is the Class definition?) and were domiciled (living) in the UK on the date of domicile (which will be determined by the Competition Appeal Tribunal but is likely to be the date on which the claim is certified), you will automatically be included in the claim (unless you opt-out of it).
If you are an eligible Class Member, but do not wish to be a part of the claim for any reason, you can choose not to participate by completing an online form or by downloading, completing and submitting an opt-out letter in the specified form. If you choose to opt-out, you will be excluded from the claim, and if this claim results in a damages award, you will not receive any compensation.
If you fall within the definition of the Class but were not domiciled in the UK on 21 November 2023, you are permitted to opt into the proceedings. If you are not domiciled in the United Kingdom, you must take steps to opt-in to the Class if you want to be part of the collective proceedings to be eligible to receive a payment in the future if this claim results in a damages award.
Opting-in does not guarantee inclusion in the Class where you do not meet the eligibility criteria. You can choose to participate by completing and submitting the opt-in form here.
You will not be included in the claim if you are:
- An officer, director or employee of Sony PlayStation, their subsidiaries and any entity in which they have a controlling interest;
- A member of Alex Neill’s or Sony PlayStation’s respective legal teams and all experts and professional advisors instructed and retained by them, and all funders or insurers involved, in connection with the collective claim;
- All employees/directors of the Class Representative’s litigation funder;
- A member and/or staff of the Competition Appeal Tribunal assigned at any point to the collective claim, their parents, their spouses or civil partners or any persons with whom they cohabit, and their children; and/or
- A judge involved in any appeal in the collective claim and their parents, their spouses or civil partners or any persons with whom they cohabit, and their children.
Personal representatives/administrators of the estates of deceased Class Members (see What is the Class definition?) are included within the claim against Sony PlayStation.
You will still be automatically included in the claim if you were a PlayStation customer between 19 August 2016 and 19 August 2022 and whenever you stopped being a customer of theirs, provided you met the definition of the Class for the collective claim (see What is the Class definition?) during that time.
It may be that the amount of compensation you are entitled to is lower than other claimants who are still PlayStation customers (because you have been over-charged for a shorter period of time).
The Class Representative (Alex Neill) has secured litigation funding from Woodsford Litigation Funding 15 LLP (“Woodsford”). In addition, members of the legal team are also working on conditional fee agreements (“CFA”), which means only part of their standard fee is paid (by Woodsford); the remaining fee being subject to the success of the claim. This is common where class representatives are not able to fund a claim of this size and public importance on their own.
As is common in all cases funded by third-party funders and via CFAs, subject to the approval of the Tribunal, Woodsford and the legal team will receive a fee or uplift in exchange for taking on the risk of funding the claim. The fee is calculated depending on the stage the case reaches and how much the Class Representative has spent.
If the claim is not successful, Woodsford will not receive anything and the legal team will only receive their discounted fees as paid by Woodsford. The Tribunal has powers to order payment of the fees, uplift or other legal expenses or disbursements (to the extent these are not recovered from the Defendants) to be taken from any award of damages, either prior to or following distribution to the Class Members.
Class Members do not need to pay anything even if the claim is unsuccessful. Class Members do not face any personal risk in relation to these proceedings.
You do not need to do anything.
Class Members (see What is the Class definition?), will automatically be part of the claim.
We encourage PlayStation customers to Sign-up to be kept up to date on the case.
Alex Neill and the lawyers (who are funded (in part) by the litigation funder to bring the case) will take care of the rest for now.
We estimate that the damages in this claim fall within a range between £0.6bn to £5bn, before interest.
If our claim is successful, the amount Sony owes to Class Members will be assessed by the Competition Appeal Tribunal. The current estimated damages per individual Class Member is between £67 and £562, before interest.
However, cases of this nature can take several years.
In the meantime, we will provide regular updates via this website and by email to those who have registered their interest.
About the legal framework
Competition law seeks to curb practices that undermine or restrict competition to the detriment of consumers. Competition law infringements include abuses of dominant market positions by companies.
Collective proceedings are when a group of people affected by the same issue are represented by a single person to bring a claim. It provides important access to justice in circumstances where they might not otherwise be able to bring a claim. Consumers can use collective proceedings to hold large companies to account. Collective actions need class representatives and our Class Representative is consumer rights expert and campaigner, Alex Neill.
The group of claimants is referred to as a ‘class’ and each claimant in the group is referred to as a ‘class member’.
The first step in bringing collective proceedings is to apply for authorisation from the Competition Appeal Tribunal. This is achieved by filing an application for a Collective Proceedings Order. This Order of the Tribunal authorises the class representative to act on behalf of the class and certifies the individual claims for inclusion in the collective proceedings. Alex Neill filed an application for Collective Proceedings on 19 August 2022. The order was granted on 21 November 2023.
Collective proceedings are categorised as “opt-in” or “opt-out”, according to the way in which claimants are admitted to the class(es). Opt-in collective proceedings require class members to sign up to participate in the claim, while opt-out proceedings include everyone who falls within the class definition approved by the Tribunal in the claim, allowing individuals who prefer not to be included in the proceedings to opt out.
This claim is brought on an opt-out basis.
This is one of the earliest procedural milestones of a collective proceeding.
When the Competition Appeal Tribunal ‘certifies’ a collective proceeding, it authorises the class representative to act for the class members and grants the class representative their application for a Collective Proceedings Order so the claim can proceed to the next stage, unless it is settled beforehand. This claim was certified on 21 November 2023. The Collective Proceedings Order was made on 19 January 2024.
A case management conference (also referred to as a CMC) is a step in litigation used by the Competition Appeal Tribunal to give directions as to the way the case is to be conducted and to set up the future timetable.
About the team
Alex Neill is bringing the claim through Alex Neill Class Representative Limited.
Alex Neill is the sole director of Alex Neill Class Representative, the not-for-profit special purpose vehicle that has been incorporated with the specific purpose of pursuing the claims against Sony.
Alex Neill is authorised by the Competition Appeal Tribunal to act as the class representative. You can read her profile in About Us.
A class representative is a single individual who represents the class. The class representative conducts the collective proceedings against the defendants on behalf of all Class Members, except those who opt out, and instructs the legal team.
A class representative is responsible for communicating with and issuing formal notices to the class members. We intend to facilitate this via updates and announcements posted on this website, email correspondence and written notices. If you’d like to receive updates in relation to this claim, make sure you Sign-up.
To assist her in her role, Alex has established an advisory panel of individuals experienced in the sectors relevant to the collective proceedings against Sony.
About fees and costs
There is nothing for Class Members to pay. The claim is being fully funded by a third-party litigation funder, Woodsford and through conditional fee agreements with the legal advisors.
The Class Representative has secured litigation funding from Woodsford Litigation Funding 15 LLP (“Woodsford”). In addition, members of the legal team are also working on conditional fee agreements (“CFA”), which means only part of their standard fee is paid (by Woodsford), the remaining fee being subject to success of the claim. This is common where class representatives are not able to fund a claim of this size and public importance on their own. Furthermore, to protect against the risk of having to pay the Defendants’ costs (if the claim is not successful), After-the-Event (“ATE”) insurance has been procured to fortify an indemnity against the Defendants’ costs that has been provided by Woodsford. ATE insurance is a type of insurance which protect against the risk of the Class Representative having to pay the Defendants’ reasonably incurred legal costs.
As is common in all cases funded by third-party funders, insurers and via CFAs, subject to the approval of the Tribunal, Woodsford, the ATE insurer(s) and the legal team will, in the event of a successful outcome, become entitled to a fee or uplift in exchange for taking on the risk of funding the claim. The fees and uplifts are generally calculated depending on the stage the case reaches and how much the Class Representative has spent. As matters presently stand, the funder’s fee is a multiple of the “costs limit” (being the overall amount of funding that the funder has made available to the Class Representative to run the claim), although this is subject to the Tribunal’s full discretion to determine sums payable to the funder at the end of the case. If the claim is not successful, Woodsford will not receive anything, and the legal team will only receive their discounted fees as paid by Woodsford. The Tribunal has powers to order payment of the fees, uplift or other legal expenses or disbursements (to the extent these are not recovered from the Defendants), including any aforementioned fees and uplifts, to be taken from any award of damages, either prior to or following distribution to Class Members.
Given that Woodsford, the legal team, any ATE insurers, and any other similar ‘stakeholder’ with a financial interest in the outcome of the proceedings, are all dependent on the Tribunal exercising these powers to receive a return on their respective investments, the Class Representative has agreed, in return for the funding to be provided to it, to apply for an Order from the Tribunal, at appropriate juncture(s) in the proceedings, that the costs, fees and disbursements of the proceedings be ‘defrayed’ (or deducted) from any aggregate damages award or settlement sum before the balance is distributed to Class Members. The Class Representative considers that this is consistent with the best interests of Class Members, as the funding has enabled the claim to be brought and means that certain stakeholders’ return would be lower if paid prior to (rather than after) distribution of the balance to Class Members. The granting of any such order would be, in any event wholly in the discretion of the Tribunal.
Class Members do not need to pay anything even if the claim is unsuccessful.
Funding documents are available upon request.
This type of litigation is essential if we are to address the imbalance of power which hugely favours big corporations to the detriment of consumers, and means that they frequently get to ride roughshod over consumer rights. Why should big business be able to get away with unlawful behaviour simply because the legal system is currently stacked in their favour?
For most people the idea of taking on big business is quite terrifying and potentially ruinous. That is even where the company has acted in the most egregious way. Joining people together into a unified force is in most cases the only way that the ordinary person in the street can hope to get justice for what has been done to them. The collective actions regime in the Competition Appeal Tribunal was established by government in 2015 to do just that. Recognising that there were huge challenges relating to access to justice for consumers. If anything, we’d like to see the opt-out regime extended beyond competition claims.