Right now you’re all champing at the bit to buy the next generation of consoles that are coming out. Perhaps you’ve already pre-ordered. So it's a good time to remind you about things like the Red Ring of Death and the Orange Light of Death and various other things “of Death” that tend to plague new hardware.

’m not saying that the Xbox One or PS4 will have flaws that render them unusable, but as they're being frantically manufactured in order to meet launch demands, problems may arise. If they do, what are your consumer rights?

Thankfully in New Zealand our consumer laws are pretty good, and the best one is the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA).

The CGA is essentially an extended warranty on any goods (and services) that you buy. The CGA says that products should:

  • Be of acceptable quality (meaning they do what they’re supposed to, are free from minor defects, and are both safe and durable).
  • Be fit for a particular purpose that you asked about.
  • Match the description given in advertisements or sales brochures, or by the sales assistant.
  • Match the sample or demonstration model.

And all of this applies for a reasonable time after you buy the product. For game consoles, the life expectancy is the same for computers: roughly five years. This means that for up to five years after you buy it, if it suffers a fault that is in no way caused by you, you may be able to get it replaced or repaired for free.

Beyond durability, the device also needs to be fit for purpose. This is important if you decide to buy a console for one its lauded features. For example, if you go into the store and say “I want to buy this Xbox One because it lets me watch the NFL live” and a salesperson confirms that you can, and then you discover this is a US-only feature you can return the console for a full refund.

This seems like a huge burden on the retailer and the manufacturer, but the law is designed so that retailers can still charge a correct amount for a product and consumers know that it won’t break as soon as the 12-month warranty expires. (The CGA is also the reason why you should never buy an extended warranty.)

To claim under the CGA you need to go back to the place you purchased from. I’ve bolded that because it’s very important. Do not go back to the manufacturer (also an important note). I've heard of a lot of retailers saying things like “Go talk to Sony”. “NO!” should be your reply. The retailer can go back to the manufacturer after it has sorted out your problem, but telling you to do so is shirking its responsibilities under the CGA.

The retailers do have the right to ask for an independent assessment and this may mean sending your console away for a while. This is OK as long as it’s a reasonable timeframe (your version of “reasonable” and its may differ). It may also ask you for a fee to do this; this is a bit sketchy. If you do pay the fee you must make sure that if it’s found to be a fault of the console that you will get that fee back.

The retailer has three options to reimburse you: replace, refund or repair. You are pretty much stuck with whichever one of these it chooses. If it goes for the repair or replace option though, the CGA still applies to the console when it’s returned to you.

So go and buy your crazy shiny new toys and know that New Zealand law is protecting you should this next-gen have anything “of Death”.

About the author:

Hadyn Green is a geek. He loves shiny new tech and the chance to try to break it. Because it's the kind of thing people ask, here is the tech Hadyn currently uses. Phone: iPhone 5s Tablet: iPad Air. Music player: Spotify. Headphones: Sony MDR-G55 (for walking because I hate earbuds) and Beats Studio noise-cancelling (for sitting at my desk and tuning out the world). E-Reader: Kindle Touch. Gaming: PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Internet Service Provider: Snap.