Add Microsoft to the big list of companies that don’t want their customers to have the ability to sue them. Earlier this year, Sony added a clause to its terms of service that prevents PS3 owners from joining class action suits and forces those same customers through what is called mandatory arbitration. EA followed suit as well. Now Microsoft has done so with its latest Dash update.
For those unfamiliar with arbitration and such mandatory clauses, here is a quick explanation for you. Arbitration is a method of settling a dispute using a third party mediator rather than a court. This is meant to be faster and less costly for all parties involved. However, due to the nature of such mandatory agreements and the arbitration business itself, the deck is stack in favor of the business. Most arbitration clauses have a provision that gives the company the sole power to choose the arbitrator. Because of this, most arbitrators will side more frequently with the business in order to get more business down the road. I mean who would want to give their business to a third party that doesn’t rule in their favor.
So you can obviously see why most companies would rather settle disputes through arbitration and not a court.
On top of this provision, Microsoft’s agreement also blocks class action lawsuits from being filed against Microsoft. What this will do is prevent one of the best ways of holding businesses accountable for violating the rights of a large class of people. If people cannot band together to settle a dispute, each person in the class is forced to file separately which drives up the costs associated with seeking a remedy making it far more inconvenient.
While Kotaku notes that some states and nations may have laws that preempt such clauses, the majority of XBox 360 owners are stuck with these provisions. This is not a move that any gamer should be happy with. Arbitration should be a choice between the parties involved and should only be raised when an issue arises, not as a defensive maneuver. Sadly, Microsoft will not allow gamers to opt out of this in any way that does not involve ditching their console.