Microsoft Has No Answer For Their Broken XBOX Live DRM

Reader Kevin’s XBOX 360 suffered the usual Red Ring of Death, so he sent it in to be repaired. He got back a different XBOX 360 with a different serial number. That would be no big deal, except Kevin has purchased a bunch of content through XBOX Live… content that is no longer fully functional due to Microsoft’s broken DRM.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • November 2007: Kevin’s XBOX 360 is replaced, causing his content to lose full functionality. He calls Microsoft.

  • Microsoft keeps Kevin on the phone for an hour trying different methods of restoring functionality to his content. Nothing works. They say they will call him back in two weeks.
  • They do not call him back, so he calls them. Microsoft makes him repeat the steps he tried the first time he called. They tell him they will call him back in two weeks.
  • This cycle repeats twice more before Kevin gets a call from Frank at XBOX escalations. It’s now the second week of January.
  • Kevin periodically speaks to Frank. Frank has no answers for him.
  • February 7, 2008: Frank tells Kevin that there’s nothing more he can do and, when Kevin asks when he can expect a resolution, Frank says “hopefully sometime in 2008.”

We suggested that Kevin escalate his complaint. He did. This resulted in another call from Frank confirming that there was nothing Microsoft can do.

Kevin writes:

I just wanted to drop you a line about my recent experience with Microsoft’s horrible customer service for their 360 consoles. First a bit of background for folks not familiar with the 360’s problems and it’s DRM system.

It’s well known that Microsoft’s 360 console has an unusually high failure rate resulting in many users suffering what has been coined the ‘Red Ring of Death’ and being forced to send in the console on warranty. While Microsoft has extended the warranty on these systems for 3-years against this problem they are refusing to fully repair the devices. While they are happy to replace the device if you are an Xbox Live Marketplace user your box will not be fully functional on return. If you have purchased any content through their Xbox Live service which sells full games, movies, tv shows and add-on content for various titles you will find that it no longer works properly on your replacement console.

When you purchase content on Xbox Live it’s linked to two things. The Xbox Live ID of the original purchaser of the content and a secret ‘code’ of some sort inside the Xbox 360 itself. You can use your content on any Xbox 360 anytime your are signed into Live using the original purchaser’s Xbox Live account. You can also use the content offline or with any profile signed into the 360 the content was originally purchased on. This is particularly good for families who have multiple gamers with separate profiles. Any content purchased on the system is available to everyone who signs into the box online or offline. Well, that is until your box red rings.

In October of 2007 my 360 experienced a hardware failure and the red ring of death. I sent it in for replacement and after waiting over a month I was shipped a new replacement console. This new replacement console has a different serial number and as a result all of my downloaded content only works now when the purchasing profile is signed into Xbox live. Additional profiles on the system can no longer access the content. I can no longer access the content when I’m not signed into Xbox Live. So any internet issues with my system or Xbox Live (which experienced serious problems for most of last month) means I can no longer use the items I have purchased. As far as I’m concerned since the functionality I had before is now crippled my console has not been repaired.

I immediately contacted Microsoft when I noticed this a day or two after I received my system back in November of 2007. They had me try a few things in the system blade and redownload one of my items. This did nothing to resolve then issue. At that time they put me through over an hour of providing them with serial numbers, reference numbers, UPS tracking numbers and all sorts of other information while they located the information about my repair. Somehow they had apparently lost it. After this frustrating episode was over they escalated me to a supervisor. He informed me this had to be reviewed and that someone would call me back in the next two weeks.

Two weeks go by, I call back. I first get a Xbox Live rep who doesn’t know what to do with my reference number from my previous call and makes me go through the whole process again of giving serial numbers and items from the previous ticket. I get escalated to a supervisor who thankfully can use my original reference number. He tells me he has nothing new to tell me and that I should expect a call back in the next two weeks.

This cycle repeats two more times until I get fed up with constantly being told ‘two more weeks!’ and I email a different contact address in Microsoft. This seems to get things moving since I’m contacted very quickly by a representative who only calls himself ‘Frank’ from “Microsoft Xbox Escalations” he assures me that he is going to follow the issue to resolution. But he has nothing to tell me at this time but promises to give me weekly updates until the issue is resolved. It is now the 2nd week of January.

The next week he calls up asking me to give him the serial number for the console so he can pass it along to whoever is working on the issue. He says he doesn’t have anything new but hopes this will help. The next week he calls up to report that he has nothing new to tell me yet. Still no ETA. This continues weekly until February 7th.

Yesterday, February 7th, Frank calls to tell me he will no longer be working on my case because there is nothing he can do. I ask if he is passing me onto someone else who will handle it and he says he is not. I ask if there is anyone I can call for status updates on my issue and he says there is not. I ask him when I can expect it to be resolved and he says I quote: “hopefully sometime in 2008.” I ask to speak to a supervisor and he refuses assuring me there is nothing that can be done. Apparently my issue is being handled by the “Live Team” but whoever this team is they do not talk to any department outside their own, they do not give ETAs. Essentially I’m being told that since my console suffered a widespread hardware failure, was serviced by Microsoft under warranty, that now I’m supposed to wait for a call back from Microsoft some day in the next year or more for the system to be fully functional again. Furthermore I have nobody I can contact or speak to regarding the status of my problem.

Let this be a warning to anyone considering making purchases on Xbox Live. Microsoft does not stand behind their product in regards to this service and failures of their own systems. They are happy to take your money and give you the run around until you simply give up and go away. This is honestly the worst customer service experience I have ever had with any company.

Intern Alex asked if he tried escalating his complaint and pointed him to some contact info that we’d posted. Kevin wrote back:

I saw that and sent an email to each of them and one to Major Nelson who runs Microsoft’s official Xbox Live blog.

As a result of those emails, Frank called me again.

He confirmed for me the following:

* That he can give me no ETA for when this issue will be resolved.
* That there is nobody I can call for status updates since the team that does ‘relicensing’ does not give updates.
* That they will only provide me with resolution when all my content is relicensed not partial.
* That there is no compensation for the fact this has taken and will likely take months more to resolve.
* That there is nothing more he can do.
* That he ‘hopes’ that it will be resolved shortly.

I’m expected to accept this as the resolution and basically “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Worst Customer Service Ever.