08 December 2005

Xbox360 and Class Action

Some of you may expect me to gloat on the news of a Class Action suit forming over XBox heat problems.

Well, I don't wish those sorts of things on my worst enemies (oh, ok perhaps Sony deserves one or two over the rootkit debacle!). This class-action-as-soon-as-I-have-a-problem is one of the worst things about our current society (well, the US one that is, but we have it here in sorts, and it will only get worse too).

Does MS not offer a warranty? Has it refused to honour that warranty? Just what percentage of units were defective? Has anyone's house burned down? While I reported on the heat issue with the XBoxes on this site last week, it does not seem that it is massively widespread, and while MS is not going to stand up and explain to the world (it doesn't have to), I've not heard big complaints about its handling of any XBox issues (except the shortage!).

Class action lawsuits do not benefit the consumer. Anti-trust actions do not benefit the consumer - they benefit the CURRENT shareholder of the company that wins (not the shareholder/employee at the time of the anti-trust actions). The only true beneficiary is the lawyer(s). And of course, that applies to the defense lawyers too! For instance, in all the EU action against MS, not once has there been mention of the consumer getting recompensed for being ripped off by the anti-trust practices. And in cases like Real vs Microsoft, why for instance isn't Apple also recompensed for losing out similarly with Quicktime (because they didn't/couldn't sue?). In an ideal world, one company would have succeeded reaping the profits (legally) or there would have been intense competition and no one would have made much. In this case, the consumer pays for the illegal-monopoly, and then sees those illegal gains distributed to the other protagonists. With class action lawsuits, we also lose out. Innovation is held back and the status quo is preserved, and the lawyers take it all.

Most products (cars, bikes, pvr, software, etc) I own have some flaw with them, yet only the massive hits are big enough for the lawyers to get their teeth into. We benefit as consumers from rigorous consumer rights laws that entitle us to get problems fixed and money back when something is not "fit for purpose". The law is already on our side. But we consumers also have a responsibility to investigate what we're buying too - that it fits our needs and expectations. If we don't want to chance, we don't buy something brand new. If we like something (despite it's flaws) then we recommend it. If not, we tell people why not. And only if a company has patently and severely broken the trust we should expect in them (eg the Sony Rootkit fiasco) should we need to resort to more serious measures. Wake up consumers of the world and exercise your buying power responsibly.

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