Sony settles with FTC, to refund Vita customers over false advertising

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Sony Computer Entertainment America has settled with the FTC over false and misleading advertisement charges involving PS Vita's launch campaign.

As part of the settlement, Sony will offer partial refunds to Vita customers who purchased the device prior to June 1st, 2012. Qualifying individuals will have their choice between a $25 cash/credit refund or a $50 voucher for select games and services.

Sony will be obligated to email those eligible for the refund after the settlement finalizes.

The charges from the FTC alleged Sony's claims about the Vita at launch were misleading, stating the hardware would revolutionize gaming mobility” via remote and cross-platform play with the PS3 – specifically that the device allowed players to start a game on PS3, pause, and continue playing on Vita.

"Sony claimed, for example, that PS Vita users could pause any PS3 game at any time and continue to play the game on their PS Vita from where they left off. This feature, however, was only available for a few PS3 games, and the pause-and-save capability described in the ads varied significantly from game to game....”

Sony's PS Vita ads falsely implied that consumers who owned the 3G version of the device (which cost an extra $50 plus monthly fees) could engage in live, multi-player gaming through a 3G network. In fact, consumers could not engage in live, multiplayer gaming.... In reality, most PS3 games were not remote playable on the PS Vita."

The FTC added that Sony's advertising agency, Deutsch LA, knew that the ads contained misleading information; and that the company exacerbated the misinformation by using its own staff members to build hype for the handheld on social media, without disclosing that they were in bed with the agency or Sony.

"As we enter the year's biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers – as Sony did with the 'game changing' features of its PS Vita – they must deliver on those pledges," Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich said.

"The FTC will not hesitate to act on behalf of consumers when companies or advertisers make false product claims."

Both Sony and Deutsch LA have been barred from similar advertising practices moving forward.

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