Sony fined €13.5 million in France for abusing its dominant position

France’s competition supervisor fined Sony €13.5 million for abusing its dominant position in supplying game controllers for PlayStation 4 (PS4) consoles for more than four years.

The Autorité de la Concurrence found two practices that Sony used to limit gamers from third-party devices.

Firstly, from November 2015, Sony used technical measures intended to combat counterfeiting, however, that also affected the proper functioning of third-party game controllers produced without an official Sony license.

Third-party controllers regularly disconnected during console operating system updates, the press release reads.

French authority found this measure as disproportionate, as it affected all “unlicensed” controllers indiscriminately.

Secondly, the licensing policy itself was opaque and, in several cases, prevented rival companies from joining it. The only way for companies to obtain the license was by joining the partnership program. The supervisor found that Sony refused to communicate the program access criteria to manufacturers who requested them.

“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 announced.

The fine was imposed for a combination of these practices, as they significantly damaged third- party manufacturers “brand image” and slowed down their expansion in the market, leading to the possible foreclosure.

“The Autorité considers that Sony abused its dominant position for more than four years, between November 2015 and April 2020, i.e. for most of the life of the PS4 console,” the decision reads.

While Sony claimed that the unlicensed controllers were inevitably trademark or patent infringements, the Autorité rejected this argument, pointing out that the patents invoked by Sony expired or were about to expire during the period of the practices.

A fine of €13,527,000 has been imposed jointly on four Sony group companies. Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Limited was in charge of the licensing program in Europe, Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. K.K was responsible for rolling out operating system updates for the PS4 console, and Sony Interactive Entertainment France marketed controllers in France. The parent company, Sony Group Corporation, is also included in the decision.

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