An interactive entertainment lawyer tells GameIndustry.biz that the new wording in the PlayStation Network terms of service is geared more towards consumers in the United States and is probably not enforceable in the United Kingdom due to existing laws that prevent such contracts.
In case you've forgotten it from yesterday, here's what paragraph 15 of the PSN terms of service states:
"If you have a Dispute with any Sony Entity or any of a Sony Entity's officers, directors, employees and agents that cannot be resolved through negotiation within the time frame described in the 'Notice of Dispute' clause below.
Other than those matters listed in the Exclusions from Arbitration clause, you and the Sony Entity that you have a Dispute with agree to seek resolution of the Dispute only through arbitration of that Dispute in accordance with the terms of this Section 15, and not litigate any Dispute in court. Arbitration means that the Dispute will be resolved by a neutral arbitrator instead of in a court by a judge or jury."
Sheridans partner and interactive entertainment lawyer Alex Chapman says that – even though consumers loathe it – it makes sense for Sony to do this after all the trouble it had this year.
"Whilst this may not be popular with consumers it is really nothing more than any sensible business would do after it has learned some lessons through what must have been a very difficult experience," Chapman told GamesIndustry.biz in an exclusive statement.
"Sony is clearly balancing the risk of adverse consumer reaction against the risk of facing future class actions," he added. "Time will tell whether consumers care enough about not being able to bring a class action to give up PSN access."
While this might work in the United States the new wording, says Chapman, is likely not enforceable in the UK.
"From a legal point of view there is no certainty that this language will have any effect," Chapman continues. "The applicable law for the kind of disputes that consumers may bring will generally be governed by the country in which the consumer is resident. In the UK it is not unlikely that this would be considered unenforceable under the Unfair Contracts Terms Act. However it is probably not the UK that Sony is worried about but the USA where class actions are more common place and the system can mean that defending those actions can be so time consuming and expensive that it is more cost effective to settle even spurious claims."