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French Watchdog Hits Sony with €13.5M Fine for PS4 Controller Practices

 |  December 20, 2023

France’s antitrust regulator, Autorité de la Concurrence, announced on Wednesday that it has imposed a fine of 13.5 million euros ($14.8 million) on Japanese tech giant Sony. The penalty was levied for what the regulatory body described as the abuse of Sony’s dominant position in the market for the supply of video game controllers for PlayStation 4 (PS4).

The antitrust investigation revealed two primary infractions committed by Sony, leading to a significant fine. Firstly, the Japanese company implemented technical measures in November 2015 to combat counterfeiting, which inadvertently affected the proper functioning of third-party game controllers produced without an official Sony license. According to the regulator, third-party controllers faced regular disconnections during console operating system updates due to Sony’s measures, which were deemed disproportionate.

The antitrust authority found Sony’s actions indiscriminate, affecting all “unlicensed” controllers without distinction. This move was considered detrimental to third-party manufacturers, significantly tarnishing their brand image and hindering their expansion in the market.

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Moreover, the antitrust body highlighted a lack of transparency in Sony’s licensing policy. Rival companies were reportedly impeded from joining the licensing program, with access only granted through Sony’s partnership program. The regulatory authority uncovered that Sony refused to communicate the program access criteria to manufacturers upon request, alleging that the criteria were applied at Sony’s discretion.

“Sony applied the criteria in a discretionary manner, even though access to the program was the only way to avoid disconnections,” the Autorité de la Concurrence stated in their announcement.

The combination of these practices, according to the antitrust body, significantly damaged the brand image of third-party manufacturers and impeded their market expansion, potentially leading to their foreclosure.

Sony has not yet publicly responded to the fine. However, this decision is expected to send ripples through the gaming industry, prompting discussions on fair competition and the responsibilities of dominant players in the market. The regulatory action underscores the increasing scrutiny technology companies face globally, emphasizing the need for transparent and fair business practices to foster a competitive and innovative market environment.

Source: Reuters