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Defective products and a pattern of consumer abuse, Part Two

In Part One of this series, we looked at how consumers who buy electronic products as soon as they launch often serve as guinea pigs in terms of product testing. Some companies will ship or retail products that have been inadequately tested for durability and functionality. It's possible that many of these companies, in their haste to beat competitors and increase profits, may be unaware of the problems. But if we look at the pattern, it seems that the companies may know exactly what is happening.

As mentioned in the previous post, the Xbox 360 had an estimated failure rate of about 50 percent, and it launched in 2005. The situation for gamers does not seem to be improving. To name just two prominent examples, Sony's Playstation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, both highly anticipated releases, required mandatory updates virtually as soon as they were launched. Consumers also reported a host of hardware and software problems that in many cases made the products impossible to use.

Microsoft claims "a very small number" of customers had to deal with these glitches, but with over a million of the Xbox One consoles sold at launch, Nov. 22, what constitutes a small number? A similar number of the Sony Playstation 4 consoles launched in North America, with a number of consumer complaints made regarding functionality. Like Microsoft, Sony claims that the problems affect less than one percent of customers. But how many of those products are perhaps wrapped and waiting under a Christmas tree? What percentage of customers might be disappointed during the holidays by defective products?

The fiasco of the Xbox 360 launch in turn launched numerous class action suits. But rather than learn from its mistakes, Microsoft opted to make it impossible for consumers to sue by requiring them, via a stipulation when pre-ordering, to agree to binding arbitration for resolving disputes, using an arbitrator of Microsoft's choosing. Consumers must agree to a class-action waiver simply to pre-order their products.

So consumers hands are tied, often unknowingly. The stipulations that prevent them from suing are not in bold face and large type, but tucked away in the fine print. The companies' attitude seems to be one of "take it or leave it." When seeking to be the first on your block to have the latest high-tech product, "let the buyer beware" is still the best policy, even with established brands.

Source:, "Broken, Bound, Gagged: Customers Silenced About Defective Products" Noreen Seebacher, Nov. 25, 2013

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