Mother gets money back after second-hand Nintendo Switch banned from online play

A B.C. woman who bought a second-hand Nintendo Switch for her two children this spring has won a partial refund after realizing the console she bought had been banned from going online.

Nicole Jones bought the Switch from a private seller, Jaime MacDonald, for $380 on March 18 after seeing MacDonald’s listing on Facebook Marketplace. MacDonald’s post said the console was “like new” with freshly updated software, according to a ruling from the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal.

Jones took the console home, connected it to her TV and let her six- and nine-year-old children play offline chip games — games that don’t need to be connected to the internet in order to work. In mid-May, her children tried to play an online game but found it wouldn’t work.

Jones contacted Nintendo to see what was wrong and learned the gaming system had been permanently banned from online activity on March 26 — eight days after Jones bought it — “due to unauthorized or fraudulent activity” some time before that date.

A banned Switch doesn’t have access to any online gaming or the eShop. Users can’t download games or update their Switch, either. Offline games still work, like those in old-school gaming consoles.

Bans are often put in place after a user tries to hack or tamper with the console, or after buying pirated games.

Jones said a Nintendo staffer told her someone would need a good understanding of computer programming and “quite a bit of time” to tamper with the console in a way that would trigger a ban. An email from Nintendo didn’t explain the exact activity that led to the ban or specify when it happened.

Jones told the tribunal she wouldn’t know how to tamper with a Switch. The tribunal agreed and found it was “unlikely” Jones or her children caused the ban.

MacDonald said Jones should not be entitled to a refund because the console was working properly when he sold it to her. He also said the Jones children used the console for two months without a problem, and pointed out that it still works for offline games.

The tribunal sided with Jones. The ruling said there is an implied warranty on goods sold in the province under the Sale of Goods Act, which says goods should be “durable for a reasonable period of time” after they’re bought. It said eight days was not long enough.

MacDonald was ordered to refund Jones $190 — half the price Jones paid, since the offline games still work — and pay $88 to cover her interest and tribunal fees.

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