Sony has contested claims that it is 'ripping off' UK consumers with the launch of its Playstation 2 (PS2) console - which can be pre-ordered from shops here next month.
Consumer groups have blasted Sony over its suggested £299 UK price tag, which at first glance appears to be significantly higher than suggested prices for the US of $299 (£198) and Japan of 39,800 Yen (£245), and noticeably more than France's 2,990ff (£275) price tag and Germany's 869DM (£269).
On Friday, Sony said the PS2 console had been delayed by a month and would not go on sale until 24 November, because of the need to meet demand overseas.
Consumer groups said Sony is cashing on the high anticipated demand by charging UK consumers £100 more than in the US, as current exchange rates translate $299 as approximately £200.
However, a spokesman for Sony said the figures are misleading as the UK sum includes VAT while the $299 does not include US sales taxes, typically 10 per cent, which is added at the shop counter.
He said after-sales tax, the difference between US and the UK, is about £50 and this is primarily due to the strength of the dollar against the Yen, the euro and sterling. Console production costs are calculated in Yen.
The spokesman also blamed higher UK import taxes, local transportation and storage costs, and slightly higher production costs incurred by manufacturing Pal-format consoles for Europe, rather than NTSC-format consoles for the US and Japan. He conceded that up to £10 of the difference was caused by the need to suggest a locally acceptable price point to retailers in each country.
"We've built up a large, loyal user base in the past five years and we're not going turn our backs on them now, it would make no sound business sense," he said.
In the past five years, nearly all major new consoles have been sold at launch at between £299 to £399. Traditionally, manufacturers make little or no profit, or even a loss, on consoles to establish a large user base. These losses are then recouped through software sales.
Some 5.6 million consoles of its predecessor, the Playstation, have been sold since September 1995. However, only 100,000 PS2 consoles will be available in the UK in November.
Sony said customers will be able to pre-order the unit from 7 September by completing forms available at retail chains and specialised computer shops. The company says this is the only way to guarantee being able to buy a PS2 before Christmas, but that it would only make the same number of pre-order forms available as it had consoles ready to go on sale before Christmas.
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