Sony Computer Entertainment America has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that it intentionally misled the public with the advertising campaigns around its launch of the PlayStation Vita in late 2011 and early 2012.
Under the terms of the agreement, SCEA will provide financial compensation to anyone who purchased a Vita before June 1st, 2012. Once the settlement is finalized, SCEA will notify everyone who is eligible for compensation and offer them either a $25 refund or a $50 voucher for select SCEA games and services.
The company is also explicitly barred from making such misleading advertising claims about future products.
"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," stated FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich in a press release
confirming the settlement.
According to the FTC's complaint (embedded below and worth reading), SCEA and its advertising partner, Deutsch LA, willfully misled people by -- among other things -- prominently advertising the Vita's remote play feature set (including live multiplayer via 3G wireless and "pause and resume" cross-play functionality for PlayStation 3 games) alongside gameplay footage of "data-rich" games like Killzone 3
The FTC alleges that the PlayStation 3 was not designed to support these features, and that SCEA and Deutsch LA knew (or should have known) they were misleading people about the scope of the cross-play feature set when they ran those marketing campaigns.
Moreover, the FTC alleged that Deutsch LA employees were asked to broadcast positive opinions about the Vita over their personal social networks (using the hashtag "#gamechanger") without being required to disclose their relationship to the company.
Speaking on a conference call regarding the settlement today, FTC representatives noted that this is the first time the agency has brought a complaint against a company for misleading consumers via promotional tweets from employees who were not required to disclose their relationship with the company whose products they promoted.
The FTC has issued a separate settlement order
prohibiting Deutsch LA from engaging in such practices in the future.
FTC Complaint Against Sony Re: Misleading Vita Ads