As most of our readers are probably well aware, one of the drawbacks of playing on a console is the need to pay a separate monthly subscription fee in order to be able to play online in most multiplayer games. This subscription usually comes with several benefits, including complete games attached to it, so it turns out to be a good deal most of the times. However, according to the Italian anti-trust authority, Sony is not upfront enough about the presence of a monthly subscription in order to access the online functionality of the console and fined the company for 2 million euros.
According to Ansa Press Agency, the authority mentioned that both on the console packaging itself and during the online purchase process on the official store, the need of a subscription in order to access the multiplayer components of the games is not made clear enough which can lead to a misinformed purchase by the customers. Below there is an extract of the news from the Italian website translated by yours truly:
The Authority’s investigation put in evidence that, as read in the weekly bulletin, the manifacturer is following a conduct that “can possibly mislead the consumers” because of the “shortage of information” available on both the packaging of the Playstation 4 and during the purchase of videogames through the Playstation Store “concerning a relevant element of the product’s charateristics, regarding the need of a paid subscription to make use of the console and the videogames in online multiplayer mode”.
This way, “the economic behavior of the consumer” is distorted since they’re not informed about the following costs they need to sustain.
Of course, 2 million euros for a company the size of Sony, is but a beep on the radar. Still, the fact that the anti-trust authority deemed the alleged lack of information about the PlayStation Plus subscription (or, more precisely, its need in order to access the online functionality of most games) severe enough to take action, makes us wonder if Microsoft and Nintendo are in a similar position. After all the Nintendo Online Service was implemented after the Switch release so it is definitely not mentioned on the packaging of most of the console around.
While most gamers have been around long enough to give the need of a subscription service for granted, there are people, like younger folks or parents that are not invested in the hobby firsthand, to whom this information may not be so obvious. At least the Italian anti-trust seems to think so.