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Report: Lawsuit prompts Nintendo to quietly address Joy-Con Drift complaints

Mike Futter

Report: Lawsuit prompts Nintendo to quietly address Joy-Con Drift complaints

Nintendo has reportedly instructed customer service representatives to fix Joy-Cons suffering from drift issues at no charge. Our call to Nintendo evidences the new policies.

Mike Futter,Wed, 24 Jul 2019 17:43:00

Nintendo has been on a hot streak since the launch of the Switch in March 2017. There have been a few bumps in the road. Joy-Cons were losing contact with the console in docked mode. A lack of cloud storage put save data in peril during hardware malfunction. Both have been addressed.

It seems Nintendo is poised to correct the latest hardware error it’s facing. 

As GameDaily reported on Friday, July 19, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against Nintendo for a hardware malfunction known as “Joy-Con Drift.” The condition results in unintended inputs, essentially making the Joy-Con controllers unusable.

Yesterday, Vice reported that Nintendo has changed its instructions for customer service representatives when a customer calls in with a drift problem. Typically, consumers seeking warranty repair are required to provide proof of purchase to confirm whether a device is within the manufacturer’s warranty.

“Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs,” Vice reported based on details it received from a source. “Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status. If a customer requests a refund for a previously paid Joy-Con repair [...] confirm the prior repair and then issue a refund.”

Nintendo hasn’t confirmed a change in policy, but some Switch owners are seeing the change of practice in their interactions with the company. I tested my Joy-Cons, found one of my originals with severe drift, and called the support line. A special URL (support.nintendo.com/joyconrepair) has been set up for people that are experiencing the issue. Alternatively, you can call in to set up the repair order.

When speaking with a customer service representative, the process was painless. I explained the problem and the troubleshooting steps I’d already taken (including using the recalibration option in the system menu). From there, I was issued a prepaid shipping label so the company could examine my controller for repair or replacement.

Nintendo’s decision here is unlikely to impact the recently filed class action suit. 

“If the class can still show a defect and damages, then the fix being provided now, after the fact, should not affect the claim,” Odin Law and Media founder Brandon Huffman told GameDaily via email. “If there was a good case before (which I can't know, but have my doubts about), there will still be now. What it could do, though, is stem the class from growing.”

Nintendo doesn’t have to worry that this move to change its policy around the Joy-Con drift issue will negatively impact its case or serve as an admission of guilt. Huffman explains that if corrections like this served as admission of defect, it would reasonably prohibit companies from acting until compelled.

“The rules of evidence actually prohibit a plaintiff from arguing that because a defendant changed something it suggests it was wrong in the first place,” He said. “These are called 'subsequent remedial measures' and can't generally be used to show the underlying fault. There is a good policy reason for this. As a society, we want companies and people to fix things that are, or even might be, broken to prevent future harm. If you allowed evidence of subsequent remedial measures to show fault, defendants would never fix things to avoid liability in the case.”

It’s still possible that the courts will certify the class and the case will proceed. Nintendo has moved quickly to stop the bleeding with a measure that (albeit late) gets customers up and running without cost or worry about proving purchase date. The rapid response might not get the House of Mario out of a settlement, but it will prevent the drift issue from becoming this generation’s Red Ring of Death.