Judge Rejects Settlement In PlayStation 3 “Other OS” Lawsuit

Image courtesy of jpghouse

How many PlayStation 3 owners actually cared that they couldn’t run Linux on their consoles after a software update in 2010? Sure, there was the U.S. Air Force, and a few nerds, but most people probably didn’t care. At least according to an attorney in a class action against Sony over the loss of the feature; a case that was all but closed until the judge decided to reject the settlement..

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers originally approved the settlement, but now has concerns that the claims process is onerous, especially for customers who no longer still have their consoles and didn’t hold on to information about them. Is it reasonable to expect customers to still have devices purchased between Nov. 1, 2006 and Apr. 1, 2010? Judge Rogers doesn’t think so, and explained why in her order denying the final settlement. [PDF]

There were two groups within the class for this lawsuit: Class A consumers are people who owned an affected PS3 and installed Linux on their consoles. They’re eligible to receive a payment of $55. Anyone who owned an affected PS3 at all, even if they never used the “other OS” functionality, is eligible to receive a payment of $9.

10 million units of the original “fat” PS3 model were sold before April 2010. How many people filed claims in this lawsuit? There were only 11,300, or .0013% of PS3 owners who theoretically would have been eligible to receive at least the smaller reward.

Why did so few people file? The attorneys had contact emails for users thanks to Sony’s PlayStation Network information for each console owner. Out of the 12 million addresses, the claims administrator says that 4.5 million were invalid. A large portion of the rest may have dismissed the message as junk mail.

The judge thinks that the problem may have something to do with the claims process, which required customers to jump through unnecessary hoops and provide information that Sony already had about them. Claimants had a 10-week period at the end of 2016 to file, and the lawsuit was apparently not well-publicized.

“[T]he process appears to be completely circular: notices were emailed to potential class members based on the information in Sony’s Playstation Network ID database,” she writes, “but then class members were required to provide their Playstation Network ID to Sony to look up the associated Fat PS3 serial number in the database.”

Users who no longer had their serial numbers handy were assigned a “temporary serial number” in another confusing and unnecessary process.

Then there are the attorneys’ fees. The judge questions whether the attorneys should really receive $2.25 million for their work when so few class members actually took part in the lawsuit and got any money back.

Even if every class member were eligible to collect the full $55, that’s a payout of only $621,500. The attorneys counter that the small number of claims is because so few people used or even knew about the Linux functionality.

There’s a case management conference planned for Feb. 16. If we learn that claims open back up, we’ll let you know: we suspect that there are more than 11,300 people who owned older-model PS3s just among Consumerist’s readership.