Sony accused of ripping off consumers

The knives are out for Sony over its global carve-up

Sony has been criticised over the European costing of its PlayStation2 console by the Consumers' Association Tuesday.

The watchdog has claimed that the Europe-wide price tag of £299 is too high, and cannot be justified by extra tax and transportation costs. The PlayStation 2 costs the equivalent of £240 in Japan, and will be sold for around £199 in the US.

A Sony spokesman denied that the company was overcharging its European customers, claiming that shipping and transportation costs were lower in America. He also cited UK VAT of 17.5 percent as another reason for the extra £100 cost.

Phil Evans, senior policy advisor at the Consumers' Association, is sceptical of these claims. "I agree that VAT in this country adds around £34 to the price, but I find it hard to believe that there are £60 worth of additional costs," he says.

"Although fuel is much cheaper in the US, goods are typically transported over much greater distances, so the actual transportation costs per product unit are the same." Evans feels that Sony has simply set their European pricing at the limit of what the market will bear.

Evans believes that while Sony is doing nothing illegal by maximising their profits, it is unfair that customers cannot get around the differential pricing structure.

"Many companies tend to treat £1 as equal to $1 in their pricing. However, Sony prevents UK consumers from importing models from the US by creating different technological standards in Europe," he claims.

PlayStation2 games, like DVD movies, will be regionally encoded so those sold in the US will not work on a European PlayStation2. It is not possible for users to overcome this by modifying their machine.

Evans believes it is up to the UK government to take action to prevent companies carving up the global market. The DTI failed to respond to calls at press time.

For complete gaming news, see GameSpot UK.

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