PlayStation Customer Service and Refund Policy Under Scrutiny

[UPDATE] Sony has said it will review its investigation process and offered refund to those affected.


[UPDATE] Sony has issued an official statement apologising to the affected parties, who have had their PlayStation Network accounts reactivated and their money refunded.

"We would like to thank BBC Watchdog for bringing these cases to our attention," reads the statement. "Having reviewed the evidence, we concluded that these appear to be fraudulent transactions, and further, that unfortunately the service received by both Mr Archer and Mr Lappin fell below the high standards we set for ourselves.

"We would like to apologise to them both, and notify them that we have taken immediate action to reinstate their accounts and refund the wallet top up as appropriate.

Sony has also said it will be "reviewing the investigation process that is applied to allegations of unauthorised account use."

"We take the safety and security of our customers’ accounts very seriously, and have a range of industry-leading security measures in place to protect our customers," the statement continues. "It is, however, imperative that all consumers take every precaution to protect their personal details online.

"If customers would like advice on how best to protect themselves from possible internet fraud – and we strongly recommend they do so – they can visit PlayStation Support or to Get Safe Online."

Sony also emailed John Lappin, who has published the correspondence on RLLMUK. You can read it in full below.

Dear Mr Lappin,

As you are aware, BBC Watchdog has brought your case to our attention.

We constantly strive to improve our Customer Service offering but unfortunately we sometimes get it wrong, and on this occasion, our internal processes have not met the high standards we set ourselves. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the experience you had. This is not the experience we want our customers to have. As a result of this case, we are conducting a review of our process for reviewing and responding to Unauthorised Transaction complaints to ensure other users are not similarly affected in the future.

Having re-examined this case, I can assure you that neither PlayStation Network nor Sony Entertainment Network services were compromised to obtain access to your account. In this instance, available evidence suggests that your account was accessed by attackers using usernames and passwords that were obtained outside of our Network.

Sadly, criminal activity like this is an unfortunate element of modern, online life, which underlines the need for everyone to take precautions to protect their personal details online. We recommend that our players create complex unique passwords that they have not used before, use different username/password combinations than those used for other online services, and keep a close eye on their accounts for unusual activity.

Your SEN account Wallet has now been credited with the funds that were used to make this purchase. If you haven't already done so, please make sure that you change your SEN account password to ensure that your account is kept secure.

We hope that the above goes someway in restoring your confidence in PlayStation.

Yours faithfully,

Jon Budden

Head of Consumer Services

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited

Original story is below.

Watchdog, a BBC series that investigates accusations of customer service misconduct, is expected to broadcast an episode looking into Playstation Europe’s refund policy for digital content.

The episode, set to air on Thursday, will primarily deal with the case of a customer who was refused a refund for a digital purchase, despite Sony’s internal investigation revealing it was made when the account had been compromised.

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Sony has an awkward refund policy for digital content, stating on its PlayStation Store website that a customer’s right to cancel store purchases and claim a refund “depends on the type of product” purchased from the Store.

"Wallet top-ups and purchases of digital content are final," it said. "This means that we will not credit your wallet, refund any wallet balance or transfer funds or content to another account, unless required to by local law."

Although this stance is common among other companies that deliver content digitally, it has left some customers to complain about the standards of customer service. In one recent case, John Lappin, a PlayStation 4 owner in the UK, was told that a Sony investigation had concluded that a £39.99 purchase made using his PlayStation Network account had come from a console he didn’t own, and concluded that fraud had been committed on his account.

Despite this, Lappin was not offered a refund for this purchase.

In the recorded phone call below, Lappin talks to a PlayStation customer service representative, and proceeds to read out an email he apparently received from the company.

Citing the email, Lappin said Sony's response was: "In relation to the transactions you recently flagged, our investigation concluded that the serial number of the console on which these transactions were made does not match the serial number on the console you provided to us.”

He continues: “The next sentence then says, regrettably, you can’t offer any refund for purchases unless they’re defective. So what’s being said there is ‘yes, it probably was someone fraudulently making the purchase, but because it works for them, we can’t refund you,’ which is just ridiculous.”

According to the customer service rep, Sony is unable to provide the refund because it cannot conclusively prove that he didn’t personally allow someone else to purchase the content.

Posting on NeoGAF, Lappin further detailed his dealings with PlayStation customer service, saying he spoke to multiple people and, ultimately, was unable to resolve the situation satisfactorily.

"I phoned and spoke to 4 or 5 different people, all but one were nice enough but all said the same thing and that they couldn't do anything," he said.

"The last [conversation], when I asked where the money was now, after all they'd banned the offending console and revoked access to the game, Sony reluctantly admitted [they] had it. When I asked why they couldn't give it back she explained it was my 'punishment' in case I had been trying to trick them."

Lappin added that he understands the issue is "not that big of a deal," but said Sony's attitude towards the issue gave him cause to pursue it.

"Normally I'd let shit like this go and put it down to bad luck, but the attitude of Sony was so appalling it actually made me laugh," he said. "I genuinely couldn't believe some of the things they were saying and it was just amusing.

"Ultimately, it's £40 on a videogame that a 35 year-old bloke lost, who cares? But this has happened to a lot of people, that money adds up. What if some kid gets a PSN card for his birthday and has that money taken?"

Issues pertaining to PlayStation's customer service have been a topic of discussion on the RLLMUK forum, with the more extreme issues collated on the Tales From Sony Customer Service website. It may be that some of the other stories on this website will be referenced in BBC's program.

GameSpot has contacted Sony for an official response on the accusations and the Watchdog episode. A spokesperson has said a statement will be issued shortly.

This episode of Watchdog is scheduled to be shown on BBC One at 8pm UK time (12pm Pacific) and will also be available following its airing on BBC iPlayer.

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