Sony slapped with antitrust fine of 13.5 million euros by French antitrust body

Sony slapped with antitrust fine of 13.5 million euros by French antitrust body
Sony PlayStation 4 console with a DualShock controller (Image: Sony)

Sony Hit with €13.5 Million Fine by French Antitrust Body Over PlayStation 4 Controller Practices

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) has been slapped with a €13.5 million (approximately $14.8 million) fine by the French competition regulator, Autorité de la concurrence, for abusing its dominant market position in the supply of video game controllers for the PlayStation 4 (PS4).

The investigation, launched in 2019, focused on allegations that Sony restricted competition by imposing unfair contractual terms on independent distributors and retailers selling DualShock 4 controllers, the primary controller for the PS4.

Specific Allegations and Concerns

The Autorité found that Sony:

  • Restricted distributors and retailers from freely setting resale prices for DualShock 4 controllers. This practice, known as Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) pricing, is often seen as anti-competitive as it can artificially inflate prices for consumers.
  • Limited the ability of distributors and retailers to source DualShock 4 controllers from alternative suppliers. This created a bottleneck in the supply chain, potentially leading to shortages and higher prices for consumers.
  • Imposed penalties on distributors and retailers who violated these terms. This created a chilling effect on competition, discouraging businesses from challenging Sony’s practices.

Impact on Consumers and the Market

The Autorité concluded that Sony’s practices had a negative impact on both consumers and the market. Consumers may have paid higher prices for DualShock 4 controllers due to the restricted competition. Additionally, the limited availability of controllers from alternative suppliers could have reduced consumer choice.

Sony’s Response and Potential Appeal

Sony has stated that it “strongly disagrees” with the Autorité’s decision and is considering appealing the fine. The company claims that its practices were necessary to ensure the quality and functionality of DualShock 4 controllers and to protect its brand reputation.

Implications for the Gaming Industry

This case is a significant development for the video game industry, as it sends a strong message to console manufacturers about the importance of fair competition in the market for video game accessories. If upheld, the fine could set a precedent for future antitrust investigations in the industry.

Additional Considerations

  • The Autorité’s decision comes at a time when the video game industry is facing increasing scrutiny from antitrust regulators around the world. In recent years, Microsoft has also been investigated by the European Commission for its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
  • The case raises questions about the balance between protecting intellectual property and ensuring fair competition in the market. Console manufacturers often argue that they need to control the distribution of accessories to ensure compatibility and quality. However, regulators are increasingly concerned that these practices can be used to stifle competition and harm consumers.

The Autorité’s decision to fine Sony for its PS4 controller practices is a major victory for consumers and competition in the video game industry. It remains to be seen whether Sony will appeal the fine, but this case is likely to have a significant impact on the way console manufacturers do business in the future.

Note: This news article is based on publicly available information as of December 21, 2023. It is important to note that the case is ongoing and the final outcome may differ from what is currently reported.

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Source(s): Nasdaq; Gizchina

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