Sony tries to ban users from launching class action lawsuits

Sony has quietly updated its terms of service to prohibit users by default from launching class-action lawsuits.

“Any dispute resolution proceedings, whether in arbitration or court, will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class or representative action or as a named or unnamed member in a class, consolidated, representative, or private attorney general action unless both you and the Sony entity with which you have a dispute specifically agree to do so in writing,” say the new terms of service.

Instead, users are required to seek agreement through an arbitrator chosen by Sony.

While users may opt out of the new terms of service – if they’ve even noticed them – this means mailing a written statement to the company within 30 days of signing the agreement.

It’s hardly surprising that Sony isn’t keen on class action lawsuits. It’s currently facing several, following the massive security breach of its PlayStation Network earlier this year.

Less clear, however, is the legality of the clause. Even Sony acknowledges that it’s possible it might not stand up in court.

“If the Class Action Waiver clause is found to be illegal or unenforceable, this entire Section 15 will be unenforceable, and the dispute will be decided by a court and you and the Sony Entity you have a dispute with each agree to waive in that instance, to the fullest extent allowed by law, any trial by jury,” read the new terms.

In the US, similar clauses have previously been upheld by the courts. But in many countries, contracts which appear to be ‘over-onerous’ can be thrown out as invalid.