Sony agreed to settle federal charges on Tuesday that it misled customers about features on its PlayStation Vita handheld gaming device.
The company has promised to provide refunds of $25 in cash or $50 in merchandise vouchers to customers who bought a Vita before June 1, 2012. Sony will send emails to eligible customers.
"As we enter the year's biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers—as Sony did with the 'game changing' features of its PS Vita—they must deliver on those pledges," Jessica Rich, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "The FTC will not hesitate to act on behalf of consumers when companies or advertisers make false product claims."
When Sony released the Vita in 2012, it claimed the pocket-sized device would revolutionize gaming with its new "remote play" feature. Users would be able to pause a game on their PlayStation 3 home systems, then pick up the game on their mobile Vita devices, Sony advertised.
But according to the FTC's complaint, those claims were misleading. In fact, few PlayStation games were actually able to play on both systems, the FTC said. And the pause-and-play features varied widely, according to the agency. For example, on "MLB 12: The Show," gamers could save a game on either system—but only after completing a full nine-inning game. Sony also didn't explain that customers would have to buy two versions of the game, the FTC said.
Additionally, the agency said Sony misled customers by claiming that if they had a 3G wireless connection, they could engage in live multiplayer gaming, when that wasn't actually true.
In addition to the refunds, Sony has promised not to make similar claims in the future. Sony did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
In a related action, the FTC reached a settlement with Deutsch LA, Sony's advertising agency. The government said the ad firm should have known that the ads it produced were misleading.