An advert has been put up in a central London train station boldly proclaiming "PlayStation 3--Order now for Christmas" with a phone number in red underneath beginning with the prefix 0906, the equivalent of a 1-900 in the states. Above the number is a photo of the console and controller, against a background of seasonal snowflakes...and some fine print at the bottom reading, "Calls cost £1.50 per minute."
Brits desperate enough to get their hands on the next-gen console ahead of its official European release date in March will find themselves with an approximately £7.50 (around $14) phone charge for the four-and-a-half-minute call.
The recorded message starts by telling callers that the order line is owned and run by a sole proprietor company called Mastercash. Under British law, sole proprietor companies do not have to officially register their information with Companies House, whereas limited companies do. The address given for the company is in Merseyside, and GameSpot traced it to a self-catering apartment building, which describes itself as "luxury short break, holiday and corporate accommodation on the Liverpool waterfront."
The female voice on the recording goes on to inform potential customers that this phone line service will give British consumers possibly their only chance to get their hands on a PS3 for Christmas--and explains the situation to anyone who doesn't already know. "The official release date for the PS3 is November 17, 2006," the recording says. "But the official release date in the UK has for some reason been pushed back to March 2007. With the PS3 being so popular, the supplies the shops do get are expected to have been preordered and sold out on the same day."
The voice then explains that because of this, the PS3 Mastercash will be delivering will therefore be either a Japanese or an American console, but will come with a UK power supply and all other relevant cables. This aspect of the deal seems particularly dodgy, as Sony has previously made its intentions to sue any companies "grey importing" the new PS3 console very clear indeed.
The caller is then asked to leave his or her details, including a contact phone number and a mailing address so that the company can them call back, "to make you aware of the package content and options of additional games and accessories, along with all pricing info." The voice then adds that a caller's order is in no way binding, and that Mastercash reserves the right to cancel any or all orders "at any time it sees fit to do so." Naturally, all orders are also subject to availability.
0906 numbers are premium numbers in the UK and can be bought for prices beginning at £49. Companies can then choose from a variety of different tariffs, ranging from 10p (the owner gets .25p) a minute, through to the most expensive charge offered, £1.50 a minute, of which the owner will pocket £1.03 directly.
[UPDATE] A Sony spokesperson told GameSpot that it was investigating the adverts. "This is completely unofficial and has nothing to do with Sony Computer Entertainment. Our legal department are looking into it as we speak," the statement read.