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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
PlayStation 'rip-off' anger
A games player in action
Entertainment giant Sony is coming under fire for its plans to charge up to 50% more in Europe than in the US for its new PlayStation 2 game console.

The eagerly anticipated launch is due for October in the US and November in Europe.

PlayStation 2 prices
US: $299
Japan: $360
Germany: $403
France: $414
UK: $450

The console, which claims to provide the highest quality games yet, will sell for 299 ($450) when it is launched in the UK on 24 November.

PlayStation 2 costs 240 ($360) in Japan and will cost 199 ($299) in the US when it is launched on 26 October.

In Germany it will cost 445 euros (269, $403) and in France it will cost 456 euros (275, $414)

'A fair price'

Sony blamed the price gap on higher VAT rates in the UK, fluctuating exchange rates and higher property and transport costs.

A spokesman for the Japanese firm claimed: "299 is a fair price. It is not another case of `rip-off Britain'."

Sony have made the British price higher because they know they can get away with it

The UK Consumers' Association

But consumer groups said the price in the UK had been raised because it knew demand would be high and that British consumers were willing to pay more.

A Consumers' Association spokesman said: "I accept that our VAT rate is higher at 17.5% than many local taxes in the United States, for example, but that does not explain the 100 difference.

"Sony have made the British price higher because they know they can get away with it.

"The law allows them to divide up the global market and charge what they want to in each area.

Sales success

"Sony knows demand is going to be very high, supply is short, and they are using that to keep the price high."

Sony have made the British price higher because they know they can get away with it

The UK Consumers' Association
The high price is unlikely to dampen demand for the consoles, which will only be available to customers who order them from shops in advance.

Supermarket Asda has told Sony that it will not sell PlayStation 2 unless the price is cut and the console can be sold off the shelf.

"At the moment we are not planning to sell it because Sony are insisting on a retail price of 299," said an Asda spokesman.

"We have asked them to lower the price but so far they have refused."

European demand

The PlayStation 2 has proved a sales hit in Japan, with more than two million sold despite a number of embarrassing faults.

It comes with a DVD player and by next year is expected to be available with high-speed internet access.

Sony will hope to repeat the sales success in the UK of the original PlayStations, which has seen 5.6 million sold in the UK since launching in 1995.

Such has been its fear that it might not be able to meet demand that Sony last week put back its European PlayStation 2 launch by a month from October to November.

Across the continent pre-launch surveys have indicated what Sony describes as "unprecedented demand".

Sony forecasts that 10 million PlayStation 2 units will be sold this financial year, including three million in Europe.

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See also:

14 Mar 00 | Business
PlayStation fault hits Sony shares
03 Oct 99 | The Company File
Japan's Electronics Giant
03 Jul 00 | UK
Playstation 2 order warning
17 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Military fears over PlayStation2
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