A Chicago man has filed a class action complaint against Microsoft that claims the company knowingly distributed defective Xbox game consoles in its hurry to beat rivals to market with a next-generation gaming product.
A complaint filed in a U.S. District Court in Illinois by Robert E. Byers alleges that Microsoft designed a power supply and a CPU into the Xbox 360 that run too hot and overheat, causing the console to freeze or lock up when being operated. The design defect is "material" because "it renders the Xbox 360 game consoles completely inoperable," according to court documents filed Friday, Dec. 2.
According to Byers' complaint, Microsoft made the Xbox 360 available to consumers before it was properly designed in order to release the console before companies such as Sony and Nintendo made competitive products available. Therefore, he said, the company has profited from deceiving consumers into buying a faulty product.
"In its rush to beat its competitors by being the first to introduce the next generation of game consoles into the market in order to increase Microsoft's market share, Microsoft was intent on launching its Xbox 360 Game Consoles ahead of competitors and in time to capitalize on the 2005 holiday shopping season -- even if doing so meant selling Plaintiff and Class members defectively designed Xbox 360 game consoles," Byers said in his complaint.
Byers is seeking unspecified damages for himself and others who want to participate in the suit.
Sean Marshall, a spokesman for Microsoft through the company's public relations firm Edelman, said in an e-mail interview that the company does not comment on pending legal matters but is looking into the complaint. He acknowledged that Microsoft has received "a few isolated reports of consoles not working as expected." Still, the vast majority of Xbox owners are having an "outstanding experience" with their new systems, Marshall said.
Complaints reported on blogs and user groups seem to suggest that problems with the Xbox 360 may be more widespread than Microsoft will admit. On Nov. 22, the day the Xbox 360 was released, a slew of users reported complaints in posts to the Xbox-Scene Online Web Community and to other blogs and user groups.
Some Xbox 360 users said the console would crash when loading games or after users played a game for only a short period of time, while others claimed that the consoles would freeze up and put scratches in game CDs. Still others reported scrambled screens and other signs that indicated the console was not working properly.
Another Xbox enthusiast site, Teamxbox.com, began polling users to see if their machines were working properly the day the Xbox 360 shipped. Nearly 15 percent of the 915 who voted in a poll reported that their consoles were defective.
Xbox customers having problems with their consoles can call 1-800-4 MY XBOX for help, Marshall said. Microsoft is offering to repair defective consoles as quickly as possible and will pay for overnight shipping both from consumers and back to them once consoles have been repaired, he said.
"[Microsoft is] committed to making sure the small number of consumers having any problems is taken care of right away," Marshall said.