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A couple of days ago, I was billed for my yearly Playstation Plus subscription service.

I wasn't notified ahead of time that it was due to renewal and so I could no cancel.

I cancelled immediately afterwards and requested a refund. I was denied because their T&Cs say there is no cooling off period for renewals.

Is this legal on their behalf? I will be pursuing it but it would be good to know what exactly my rights as a consumer are.

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Their auto-renewal of subscriptions and no refund policy is legal; it's clearly outlined in the contract you enter into by using the service. The TOS is at https://www.playstation.com/en-us/network/legal/terms-of-service/ and outlines the policy. (the ALL CAPS are not mine; that's verbatim from the TOS) :

If you no longer wish to receive your subscription, you must cancel your subscription by using Account management or contacting customer service at www.playstation.com/support or the address located at the end of this agreement. Cancellation will take effect at the beginning of the next subscription term.

EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE STATED IN THIS AGREEMENT, UPON CANCELLATION OF YOUR SUBSCRIPTION OR TERMINATION OF THE MASTER ACCOUNT OR SUB ACCOUNT, YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE A REFUND OR CREDIT FOR ANY SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR WHICH YOU HAVE PAID.

When you subscribe the first time, or use a free trial offer, you click through and accept the TOS. Clicking through is a legal contract. See Are terms of service legal contracts?

It's their legal right to include those terms in a TOS, and their right to require you to accept the TOS; it's your right to refuse to accept the terms, but that also means you can't pay for and use their service.

That said, in AU you may have different rights as a consumer, including a mandatory "cooling off" period. See http://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/business-and-industry/consumer-rights Someone with more experience in AU law can weigh in.

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This is potentially an unfair contract term and prohibited under the Australian Consumer Law. As a standard form contract with an Australian consumer, this contract is covered. The criteria for unfairness is:

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether a term is potentially unfair. The fairness of a term must be considered in the context of the contract as a whole.

The following questions can help you recognise a potentially unfair term, but it is important to note that the final decision on whether a term is unfair can only be made by a court.

  • Does the term cause a significant imbalance between your rights and obligations and those of the business?

  • Is the term reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the business?

  • Would the term cause you detriment (financial or non-financial) if the business tried to enforce it?

  • How transparent is the term?

Question 1 would be influenced by if the annual requirement is as binding on Sony as it is on you, that is, do they have a right to cancel, suspend or interrupt the service (other than for a breach by you).

For Question 2 Sony would need to demonstrate that its legitimate business interests can only be served by an annual contract rather than, say, a monthly one. I can't see them making any strong argument for this.

For Question 3: yes it would.

For Question 4 it would depend on the length of the contract and if this term were highlighted. Reminders before it took effect would really help Sony here.

Note that unfair under ACL is a much lower bar than unconscionable which is the common law criteria.

In your favor, one of the stated reasons given by the Federal Government for extending Consumer Protection to small business in 2016 was exactly this type of evergreening clause.

The most relevant case law are the various ACCC v Valve Software ( who operate the Steam platform). These cases relate to Valve's terms indicating a blanket no refund policy and unfortunately for you the law is much clearer here (it's illegal not to refund in some circumstances), however, the thinking of the court on these should help your position. AFAIK the case is under appeal but the current state of play is they Valve is guilty and has been sentenced to several million AUD in fines.

  • What specifically makes the contract unfair? I read the definition, and don't see any unfairness. – user6726 Jan 13 '17 at 6:07
  • @user6726 see revision – Dale M Jan 13 '17 at 7:57
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    PS+ monthly or three-monthly memberships are available. The player chose to make theirs an annual membership presumably for the benefit of a lower cost per month. Sony would not need to justify an annual membership contra that regulation. Further, total forfeit is justified against pro rata refund as the player receives a discount compared to the rate for a comparable membership in the actual time, and in the sheer volume of calculations and refunds they'd have to manage, if so.. – Nij Jan 13 '17 at 9:09

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