A Northern California man is accusing Sony of overstepping its reach by asking PSN customers to waive their ability to enter class action lawsuits against the tech giant as part of a mandatory User Agreement update last September. According to documents gathered by GameSpot, the suit alleges Sony had no right to impose such a restriction and that it also buried the anti-class action clause in the 21-page user agreement update, while failing to post an online copy as it had done for previous updates. Moreover, while Sony did allow members to opt out of the provision via snail mail (like, with actual paper and stamps), the suit claims this was not an adequate option.
When the provision was first spotted, GR sought informal advice from attorney Joseph T. Forkin, who told us it was reasonable, explaining, “In most ‘terms of service’ many companies will try to get the consumer to sign away as many/all of their rights as is favorable to themselves... As long as you know about the clause before you pay or play for free, it’s going to be reasonable.”
At this time, the move was seen as Sony's way of making sure it avoids the same legal backlash it received from customers after a run of hacks earlier this year. It was also thought to be a reaction to the OtherOS class-action lawsuit filed against Sony in July after it removed the ability to install the Linux operating system on PS3. Luckily (well, for Sony), that lawsuit was dismissed last week.
"The dismay and frustration at least some PS3 owners likely experienced when Sony made the decision to limit access to the PSN service to those who were willing to disable the OtherOS feature on their machines was no doubt genuine and understandable. As a matter of providing customer satisfaction and building loyalty, it may have been questionable," wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in a statement obtained by IGN. "As a legal matter, however, plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable."
If this most recent suit is successful, it could prompt similar action against Microsoft's own anti-class action lawsuit revision, which appeared in a recent XBLA's Terms of Service update. We may also have to start reading more law books.