Nintendo praised for new rules against customers harassing staff

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Nintendo Co. drew praise after updating its customer service terms and conditions to allow it to refuse repairs and replacements to customers who abuse or make unreasonable requests of its staff.

Social media users praised the gaming giant’s move to protect consumer-facing employees from customer harassment. One expert said it had “enhanced awareness and asked for social understanding” and that the company’s example “would also have a good effect on other businesses.”

The Kyoto-based game and console maker updated its rules on repair services in October to include a new section on customer harassment.

Screenshot of the Nintendo Co. website showing their new section outlining their policy on customer harassment. (kyodo)

In it, Nintendo states that it reserves the right to refuse to replace or repair products in cases where a customer threatens them, verbally belittles them, or intentionally keeps them on the phone for an extended period of time.

“We made the decision after concluding that our customers would understand because of the reputation we’ve built for faithfully responding to them,” a Nintendo public relations official said.

An official from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare praised the company’s initiative, saying, “Some corporations have started to take a resolute stance against the issue, which is effective.”

But unlike sexual harassment or bullying in the workplace, there are no legal controls on harassment by customers in Japan. And although it was mentioned in the manual of guidelines for companies compiled by the Ministry of Labor in February, the text is not binding.

Despite the lack of legal limits, companies in the service industry, where workers spend much more time interacting with customers, have taken progressive steps to prevent customer harassment.

In 2016, the Nihon Kotsu Co. taxi company included terms in its transportation contract that allowed it to respond to customer harassment. The company said adding the clause makes it easier to find a legal response to harassment cases.

Separately, supermarket chain My Basket Co., which has a strong presence in the capital region, surveyed all of its store staff in March this year about whether they had experienced harassment from customers, then of employees requesting the investigation in union talks. My Basket says that it intends to take specific action in response to the results.

Kansai University social psychology professor Hiromi Ikeuchi, an expert in consumer psychology, said Nintendo’s decision was timely. “In recent years, social media posts have made visible the harassment various industries are exposed to, and consumer attitudes are also changing,” she said.

“As a result, Nintendo has successfully kept up by making a decision that society was ready to accept,” Ikeuchi added.

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