The recent class action against Sony and the removal of the Install Other OS feature from the PlayStation 3 highlights a "relatively untested" area of UK and European law, Jas Purewal, a lawyer at Olswang LLP and writer of GamerLaw, has told GamesIndustry.biz.
Purewal's comments were made following the revelation yesterday that Sony faces a class action lawsuit over the removal of the "Other OS" features commonly used to install the Linux operating system on the console.
Sony removed the feature in a firmware update after hackers exploited the option to gain read/write access to the PlayStation 3.
"This case raises questions about whether console manufacturers or retailers should be liable over the removal of features which were marketed to consumers at the point of sale but are removed subsequently," said Purewal.
Amazon UK has reportedly already issued a partial refund after a customer complaint, with the law in Europe placing the onus of liability on retailers.
"This issue is relatively untested in the UK and Europe. Consumer protection is an important part of UK/EU law, which imposes certain minimum legal obligations on retailers regarding the sale of goods to consumers: for example, goods must be of satisfactory quality and must be fit for purpose," said Purewal.
"Consumers could argue that changes to console functionality are a breach of those obligations," he added. "On the other hand, there is an argument that manufacturers should have leeway if the console needs to be modified for genuine reasons, such as security or anti-piracy."
The class action was filed in a North District of California court and so the role of the retailer in the issue is not likely to be a key focus.
"Clearly this matter raises quite complex issues and, if it was litigated in Europe, it would be interesting to see where the courts' sympathy would lie," said Purewal.