Court Pushes Back A Bit On Unilateral EULA Changes

from the well,-that's-good dept

When we launched the public beta of the Techdirt Insight Community, one of the things we tried to be very careful about was the terms of service. We wanted to avoid a lot of the annoying things you find in many of the terms of service. It took two separate law firms and (not joking) one special two hour meeting explaining that the terms of service needed to actually be for the benefit of the user, rather than positioning us against the user, but eventually things worked out. One of the things the lawyers came back with initially was a clause saying that we could change the terms at any time and it was the users’ responsibility to check. That seemed pretty lame. In fact, our product development team had already set up our system so that any changes to the terms alerts the user and will not allow them to login to the service without agreeing to the new terms. I’ll admit that our terms still suggest that the user check the terms for changes, but it also lets them know that they’ll be alerted to changes as well. It’s good that we did this, because as Greg Beck alerts us, a court has ruled that websites can’t unilaterally change contracts on customers and claim it’s the users’ responsibility to check for changes. Eric Goldman gives his take on the case as well. This is something that should be obvious, but apparently wasn’t. In an age of EULAs that no one ever reads, it’s good to see the courts recognizing that it may be a bit ridiculous to consider them binding — at least in some specific cases.

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Comments on “Court Pushes Back A Bit On Unilateral EULA Changes”

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7 Comments
Nick (profile) says:

I remember reading the terms of the Insight Community when I was accepted and I knew there would not be anything fishy there becuase of the nature of your site. Before I got to the end of this post I almost thought you were going to have different versions of the agreement and that writing would be locked into the agreement version that was offered at the time. That could get messy but I know there are analogs to this found in other areas.

Anonymous Coward says:

You need an unfair contracts law

http://www.dti.gov.uk/consumers/buying-selling/sale-supply/unfair-contracts/index.html

“The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (SI 1999 No 2083) provide that a term which has not been individually negotiated in a consumer contract is unfair (and hence non-binding on the consumer) if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the parties to the detriment of the consumer.”

It’s what allows a Brit to ignore crappy EULA terms that try to remove their rights under the sale of goods act, without being considered to have accepted the EULA.

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