The Norwegian Consumer Council says Sony's removal of the "Other OS" option in the PlayStation 3 is a clear violation of the country's Marketing Control Act and plans to file an official complaint with the Consumer Ombudsman.
A lot of PS3 owners got a bit of a nasty surprise back in March 2010 when Sony decided to remove the console's "Other OS" option. Sony claimed that the removal of the option, which let users install alternate operating systems like Linux, was a necessary security measure, but that didn't fly with a lot of owners, some of whom very predictably launched lawsuits.
But the Norwegian Consumer Council is taking matters a step further. "Sony claims a universal right to change or remove functionality from the gaming console," said Thomas Nortvedt of the Norwegian Consumer Council. "In our opinion this is in clear violation of the Marketing Control Act, and not the least it's a breach of trust between the consumer and Sony."
The council received several complaints about the Other OS removal but Nortvedt said digital services aren't covered by Norway's current consumer laws. As a result, users are at the mercy of license agreements that deprive them of meaningful protection, demonstrating "just how little protection the consumer has in the digital age."
"There needs to be a limit to what constitutes a reasonable change to products we buy. Terms of service that grant the manufacturer full access to literally downgrade the product or limit the functionality are unreasonable and in clear violation of the Marketing Control Act," Nortvedt said. "When a company uses terms like updates or upgrades, it is reasonable to expect a significant improvement of the product and not the risk of being stuck with a lesser product."
This is a case that bears watching. The Norwegian market on its own may not have enough heft to make Sony tremble but it could set a rather unwelcome precedent and inspire other nations to follow in its footsteps. If nothing else, a successful complaint could trigger similar actions from aggrieved consumer groups around the world, causing a legal and PR headache that Sony would probably much rather avoid.
Yet while Norway spearheads this particular battle over digital consumer rights, it remains mired in irrelevance when it comes to lions and tigers. Norway? More like Snoreway.