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Woman sues Microsoft over Xbox 360 'red ring of death'

California woman wants company to pay for selling game machines it knew were defective

October 20, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A California woman has accused Microsoft Corp. of deceiving consumers by concealing the high failure rate of its Xbox 360 game machine, court documents show.

Reshelle Cable of Folsom, Calif., sued Microsoft last month in Superior Court in Sacramento County, charging that the company violated multiple state consumer-protection and unfair-competition laws. Cable alleged that the company continued to sell the Xbox 360 even though it knew that the console's hardware was likely to fail.

According to Cable, Microsoft pushed the Xbox 360 to market in the hope of trumping machines from rivals Sony Corp. and Nintendo Co. although it was aware of problems. "[The Xbox 360's] rush to the market was detrimental to consumers because [it] suffered from numerous hardware defects," read the lawsuit, filed Sept. 20.

The Xbox 360's hardware problems -- dubbed the "red ring of death" for the flashing red lights that signal a general failure of the machine -- have dogged Microsoft since the game system's first year. In July 2007, Microsoft finally acknowledged that an "unacceptable number of repairs" had had to be authorized on returned units, and said that it was taking a $1 billion charge against earnings to pay for the fixes.

At the time, Microsoft also extended the Xbox 360's warranty to three years for any Xbox 360 that displayed the error signal.

Cable's lawsuit quoted several online news stories, including one last month by VentureBeat.com that cited analysts' estimates of failure and repair rates as high as 15%. The VentureBeat.com story and others also claimed that Microsoft rushed the machine to market to head off Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii.

The lawsuit asks that Microsoft be required to hand over profit it made by deceiving consumers and that Xbox 360 owners be refunded their money. The case sought class-action status so that other Californians could participate.

The lawsuit was filed by Keith Cable, also of Folsom. It is not known whether Reshelle Cable and Keith Cable are related. The latter did not immediately return a call for comment.

Microsoft was also not available for comment early today.

Read more about Hardware in Computerworld's Hardware Topic Center.



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