ACCC support of chipping labelled 'ludicrous'

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) Australia managing director, Michael Ephraim, has taken a swipe at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after the government’s consumer watchdog expressed disappointment following a court decision to ban the sale of console modification chips.

The Full Federal Court decision in the case of SCE versus Sydney retailer, Eddy Stevens, means it is now illegal to sell modification chips in Australia although, unlike the US, it is still legal to own one.

The ACCC, which was granted leave to appear as a friend of the court during the case, had expressed disappointment at the decision, claiming consumers would suffer a loss of choice and may pay more for games as a result.

“Chipping has allowed consumers to modify their PlayStation consoles to play imported and backup copies of games,” ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel, said.

“While the ACCC supports Sony’s right to crack down on the sale of pirated copies of PlayStation games, this decision now means Australian consumers will be unable to enjoy games legitimately bought overseas, as well as legitimate back-up copies.

“The ACCC believes region coding is detrimental to consumers as it severely limits their choice, and in some cases, access to competitively priced goods.

The ACCC is disappointed that technology which can overcome these unfair restrictions will not be generally available for consumer use.”

Ephraim, who also heads up the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), said he realised situations might occur where consumers end up out of pocket because they had bought games legally from overseas and were unable to play them on Australian consoles but said these cases paled into insignificance when compared to the problems created by piracy.

“In Australia, we have delivered some of the cheapest software pricing in the world and games are made available at the same time [as other markets] wherever possible,” he said. “The majority of consumers will not be hindered by this [chipping] decision.

“For the ACCC to state that people will not be able to play games from overseas and claim that pricing will go up is very irresponsible. A few consumers will be disadvantaged, we don’t deny that, but for the ACCC to take that side of this debate is ludicrous.

“Unfortunately, there are pluses and minuses in everything but the software industry has grown dramatically during the past 10 years and contributed significantly to taxation and employment in this country. The government should be supportive.”

Ephraim said that chipping was already illegal in the US and the UK and claimed the court’s decision had merely brought Australia “in line with the rest of the modernised Western world”.

He said the IEAA was in discussions with the government and US free trade agreement ambassadors with regard to measures protecting copyright but claimed attempts to make the ownership of mod chips illegal, as it is in the US, were not on the agenda at the moment.

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