Nintendo Co. has come in for praise after updating its customer service terms and conditions to allow it to refuse repairs and replacements to clients who are abusive to or make unreasonable requests of its staff.
Users on social media lauded the gaming giant's move to protect consumer-facing employees from harassment by customers. One expert said it had "improved awareness and called for societal understanding" and that the company's example would "have a good effect on other businesses, too."
The Kyoto-based game and console maker updated its rules on repair services in October to include a new section on harassment by customers.
In it, Nintendo states it reserves the right to refuse to replace or repair products in cases including where a customer threatens, verbally disparages or intentionally keeps them on the phone for an extended period.
"We made the decision after concluding our customers would understand because of the reputation we have built of faithfully responding to them," a PR official at Nintendo said.
An official at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare praised the company's initiative, saying, "Some corporations began taking a resolute stance against the issue, which is effective."
But unlike sexual harassment or workplace bullying, there are no legal controls on harassment by customers in Japan. And while it was mentioned in the guidelines manual for companies compiled by the labor ministry in February, the text is non-binding.
Despite the lack of legal limits, companies in the services industry, where workers spend much more time interacting with customers, have taken progressive steps to prevent harassment from clients.
In 2016, taxi firm Nihon Kotsu Co. included in its contract of transportation terms allowing it to respond to harassment from customers. The company said adding the clause makes it easier to pursue a legal response to harassment cases.
Elsewhere, supermarket chain My Basket Co., which has a strong presence in the capital region, surveyed all of its in-store staff in March this year on whether they had experienced harassment by customers, after employees requested the investigation in union talks. My Basket says it intends to take specific measures in response to the results.
Kansai University social psychology professor Hiromi Ikeuchi, an expert in consumer psychology, said the decision from Nintendo was timely. "In recent years, posts on social media 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 with the times by making a decision that society was ready to accept," Ikeuchi added.