If You Don't See The Terms Of Service Until After You Buy, Are They Valid?

from the seems-a-bit-unfair dept

There have been lawsuits over software packages that only allow you to see the end user license agreement (EULA) after you’ve already paid for the software, but does that apply in other situations as well? Broadband Reports points us to the news that for people who sign up for Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic broadband, you don’t get to see the full terms of service until after it’s installed. Verizon claims it’s just easier this way — and that all the important points are explained ahead of time. It also says that users can cancel within 30 days with no penalty if they’re uncomfortable with the terms. However, that leaves out the fact that a lot of time and effort went into installing the actual FiOS system, which could also disrupt other systems (in fact, in a few cases — though certainly not all — a FiOS installation cuts the old copper line). So, in that case, it would be difficult to just go back to what you had before.

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Comments on “If You Don't See The Terms Of Service Until After You Buy, Are They Valid?”

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67 Comments
DooBie (profile) says:

What am I agreeing to?

I’m getting FiOS at the begging of next month, all that’s on the agreement is: what service speeds i get (5/2 Mbps) and how much i’m paying. There’s no notice that access to port 80 being blocked (which is done in the name of “security”). I have no idea why, but i did find that several very common ports are blocked on FiOS and access to the TOR network is very difficult to achieve as well.

DooBie says:

Re: Re: What am I agreeing to?

I’m planning on serving files and a small business app over TCP/IP to my offices bed i want to have the option of accessing my data easily over the WWW and to run an access site. It’s not commercial in the traditional sense, so i don’t feel that i should be charged extra for my own data.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What am I agreeing to?

Just run something like LogMeIn pro for about 200/year, for 5 clients. You can access any machine anywhere with no hassles.

I run an entire imaging workflow remotely 3-4 days /week, all I have to do is call ahead and make sure platesetters & plotters have plenty of chemistry and ink, then I just let it fly. I connect to 4 machine simultaneously having them open in a different tab of Firefox. If I wanted I could connect to as many at once as I desire.

In a sense I could run multiple locations at the same time if desired. You no longer need to serve your own web and ftp, this is P2P at it’s best. You can even try out this service with the totally free client. It just does not have the file transfer built in, but it will give you a great idea of it’s capabilities.

https://www.logmein.com

Monarch says:

Re: What am I agreeing to?

Port 80 is used primarily for web hosting. Almost all residential services by ISP’s have port 80 blocked. The reason for this is to prevent residential customers from hosting web sites, which can generate a lot of traffic. ISP’s want customers to pay for the additional bandwidth utilization by getting a commercial service if you want to host your own web sites.

Iron Chef says:

Toss the TOS

“But it’s a company with capital behind it!” big budgets to take care of the customer, take care of the issues.

We’re led to believe we need to trust them over the mom and pop ISP down the road who will provide you with better service.

As for terms of service, Ron Paul was a good solution, but media failed us.

Obama seems to be a good solution. Thoughts?

Keep up the good work, Mike Shinoda…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fye8wWcnvGs

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Toss the TOS

You do realize that the only real difference between christians and muslims is the prophet right… they arent even like the Jews… Muslims believe that jesus came… But that that other dude was the prophet… But it is the same god. You’re all retards when it comes to religion and have no idea what you are talking about.

Cutter892 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Toss the TOS

You would be the idiot when it comes to the difference between religions. Jews and Christians have much in common, Namely the Old Testament. Where they differ is the new testament, namely was Jesus a prophet or the son of God which is why the Jews for the most part do not follow New Testament because it is the teachings of Christ. The difference between Muslims and Jews/Christians is that the Koran was written by one man, Mohammed, where the Old Testament was written by many different people. Content wise the Koran teaches intolerance and hatered towards non believers and you are to only give them three options, convert, pay a religious tax and be treated like a 3rd class citizen, or kill the non believer. where as the Bible teaches that we should spread the word of God but not force it onto people who refuse to listen and to leave them in peace.

Kaeles says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Toss the TOS

You should probably read the quaran and learn about the pillars of islam before you start making rediculous statements about what their holy book says.

Now, I don’t put any stock in any holy book, but you should learn to be open minded and actually try to understand the people before you make them out to be something they are not.

If islam is what makes people violent, then why isn’t the entire southeast asian area always in turmoil?

Only ~20% of the worlds muslims live in the middle east.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Toss the TOS

. where as the Bible teaches that we should spread the word of God but not force it onto people who refuse to listen and to leave them in peace.

Is that why the religious right is always telling people to kill fags and abortion rights activists?

Who knew that was leaving them in peace.

Alimas says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Toss the TOS

Oh yeah, cause the Christians in history never traveled around the world forcing and slaughtering their religion on every other culture they ever found. And they definitely aren’t doing it now under the guise of humanitarian services.

The Abrahamic religions are all very similar (Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, etc..), differing only in seemingly minor ways when compared to each other.
Its like different kinds of apples.

Get an education.

Nismoto says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Toss the TOS

To that, then, I must say:
Fuck a Christian
Fuck a Catholic
Fuck a Pagan
Fuck a Witness
Fuck a Jew
Fuck religion!!!!!!!!

Islam is no worse than the rest; They all suck and there is no God. If there was a God, how can any claim to know Him?

My apologies to Tech Dirt for posting this but some people…

Monarch says:

Re: Re: Re: Toss the TOS

Iron Chef, didn’t see anything about racial injustice in Falindraun’s post. Are you saying you are a racist, because you are reading racist comments into the post? I mean come on, if you think using Barack’s full name is a racial slur, you’ve got something wrong with your thinking.

I for one see his view as valid points as he was just replying to an earlier post by you asking about Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., who is unable to get a top secret security clearance without being president.

Iron Chef says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Toss the TOS

Just out of curiosity, as chief executive of the country, do they really need a clearance?

I mean really, this arguement of top secret clearance seems to be one of those circular arguements that only matters if people are led to believe it matters. But in all reality, it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference. I have to hand it to the Clinton camp, you almost need a Doctorate in psychology to unravel the BS they are cooking up.

Think of it in a transitive property/subconscious fashon.

Why does Obama need a clearance? To protect from disclosure.

Why does Obama need to protect from disclosure? Because Obama will disclose something and let the terrorists win.

Do you have proof of disclosure? Obama HAS disclosed, but HRC has NOT yet disclosed her taxes.

So because Obama disclosed taxes and HRC hasn’t (yet) Obama is not fit to run the country..? It’s truly weird, but from a subconscious level, thats the message I’m getting from Clinton camp. So where are those taxes anyaway?

I imagine many of our previous presidents couldn’t get a top secret clearance either. Hell, George Washington owned slaves. …and that’s not politically correct!

Monarch says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Toss the TOS

If you ask me, H.R.C. is about as scary as GWB when it comes to the U.S. having a new president. But B.H.O.,Jr. is of the same ilk in my book also. And J.S.M.,III scares me also.

I forsee the country being forced into more taxes, more war and a declining economy in the next 4 years. I was actually a closet R.E.P. supporter, but knew he had no chance of getting the nomination, so was hoping the sheeple of the U.S. would vote for Romney, but that didn’t happen either. So I’m stuck with another election of blindly voting for the Libertarian party, to say to people I voted my principles instead of the lesser evil.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Toss the TOS

> If I wanted racial injustice, I would have gone
> slummin over to 4chan.

What exactly was racist about what Falindraun said? He said Obama couldn’t qualify for a security clearance if he went through the normal process. There’s nothing racial about that comment.

Or have we at long last reached the point in this country where merely criticizing a black person about *anything* or declining to vote for them is de facto racist?

It must be tough to be a liberal these days. You have to decide whether you’re voting for Obama because you hate women or you’re voting for Hillary because you hate blacks.

Anonymous Coward says:

for one if its a consumer line your not allowed to run http / ftp or really any other server from your machine this even includes games. In most cases the ISP does not block it but it does have it in the agreement. Normally dont bother you even if you do run a server. if you make money from any of the servers your run from a consumer line they will get mad and cut you off unless you pony up for a buisness line.

Kevin says:

Re: Read much?

for one if its a consumer line your not allowed to run http / ftp or really any other server from your machine this even includes games. In most cases the ISP does not block it but it does have it in the agreement.

And since he doesn’t get to see the agreement until after the service is installed, how is he supposed to know that? You do understand that is the entire point of his post, right?

Actor says:

Re: Re: Read much?

No ISP permits consumer users to run servers on their broadband line that I am aware of. There are technical reasons for this decision and yes, that should be spelled out upfront but why would Fios be any different than other broadband providers?

The communications infrastructure has always been a one-way proposition. You have a copper phone line in your house, but that doesn’t mean you can run a phone center off of it. Same applies to internet service.

Users who insist on violating their ToS can obtain a dynamic DNS service and that will allow them to run their server, albeit on a different port. Or they can use a remote control program like LogMeIn.com for free or pay for a more robust service.

This really is a non-issue.

Paul Stout (profile) says:

Well, about all I can say about the general subject of “After The Fact EULA’s” is that I could care less about what “any” EULA says, if the only way I can see it is after I buy the product in question.

Any company that wants me to abide by an EULA had better make the sale conditional upon acceptance of the EULA “before” any cash changes hands. Otherwise I just ignore the EULA and do as I damn well please with the product. It should go without saying that I could care less if the company does, or does not, like it.

I suspect there are more than a few million other people who both feel and act the same way I do. I also suspect that as a practical matter “After The Fact” EULA’s are completely unenforceable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

*couldn’t care less*.

“Could care less” implies that you actually care. “Couldn’t care less” implies that your level of care is 0.

Seriously, this mistake is becoming more and more popular lately and it’s a really, really silly one. Even more so than too/to/two or there/their/they’re.

Paul Stout (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, Gee…

Ignoring the useless, if not idiotic, comments about syntax I can see that you actually got the point…. As in my level of care under the described circumstance is ‘zero’. Hmmm, I guess, if we ignore your snobby elitest comments (or however else you want to describe them), that means the phrase “couldn’t care less”, served to get the point across, even to you.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how about concentrating on the subject of the blog post and skipping the snotty syntax lessons. This is isn’t a forum on English syntax.

Monarch says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Uncalled for post from Paul Stout, because Anonymous Coward’s post was informational, and I liked the English lesson. It’s like all the hick’s who speak in double negatives all the time, confusing people as to the actual meaning of the sentences they are speaking. Or Dubya trying to use a cliche and messing it up, like “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Cutter892 says:

TOS

The problem is that no one gets to see what they are agreeing to before they sign the papers and agree to it. I don’t know what the legal ramifications are though. It might be one of those “Well you should have asked to see the TOS before you agreed to the service”. or if they actually have to show it to you before you sign and they just haven’t been doing that because most people don’t run web servers from there home.

DooBie (profile) says:

TOS TOR

First off: take your political flag waving elsewhere. Politically oriented forums come a dime a dozen. But the point is, i’ve used my home connection before as a private server for my own use with other broadband services before. The other thing that gets me though, is the fact that Verizon is blocking my connection to the TOR network. I’m a technickky aware person who would like to avoid being advertised to using data from my connection, but with TOR blocked, that’s next to impossible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: TOS TOR

Your right, and to get back on subject, disclosure of Terms of service are important. To hear that Verizon is witholding this is until after the work is done is discouraging.

From what I’ve read, when the fiber is installed at the house, I can’t go back to copper. Is this true?

I don’t own a car until papers are signed which allow for agreed upon rates for financing, etc, but even if it’s not paid off, I still have the right to sell the car if wanted.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m confused.
What does TOS & EULA have to do with the upcoming election?

I am not a lawyer, but from I’ve read the EULA is not a binding contract. Contract law requires an agreement between two parties. There can not be an agreement upon undisclosed terms. As far as I know, whether the EULA is binding has not been tested in court.

Woadan says:

Verizon has never, even when it was bell Atlantic and GTE separately, allowed you to run other services (by the ToS) on your CONSUMER grade service.

They consider web hosting to be BUINESS class service, and will be happy to sell you such service. But not on DSL or FiOS.

You can argue for or against such a policy, but that is how it is. Personal Web Space is what they offer to DSL users, and though I could not find it looking at their support site, I wouldn’t be surprised that it is the same.

You can ask about this before you buy, and the sales rep will be able to answer this for you.

Please note that I am not saying I agree with this, nor disagree. But your expectations about what you can do with the service you buy are yours to manage. Don’t expect to be able to do just anything–it’s their network, and they make the rules. Your choice is whether to live with those rules or not.

The best advice I can offer, for what it’s worth, is to go into it expecting that you are paying for a client-based service, not a server-based one.

I’m not apologizing for Verizon, nor for any other broadband provider for the matter. But bear in mind that the consumer service is designed for consumer use. That is, the network is designed for the things the typical consumer would do. In their minds, web hosting is not a consumer activity, it is a business activity. Their network, and the services provided on it, are based on that.

Web hosting has a great potential for clogging up their network. The typical home user loads their pages up with graphics and other busy things, all of which hit the network. They are looking out for all customers with their policies.

Woadan
(former Verizon employee)

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Rules

> Don’t expect to be able to do just anything–
> it’s their network, and they make the rules.
> Your choice is whether to live with those rules
> or not.

No one’s disputing that Verizon can make whatever rules it likes with their network. The whole point of the article is that they (and other providers) should provide those rules *upfront*, rather than make the customer agree to them only after paying for the product and having it installed. (Especiall with a product like FiOS, which, from what I understand, requires physical alterations to one’s home which can be difficult-to-impossible to reset if the customer doesn’t agree to the rules.)

goober says:

it says ok or cancel..

Which one are you going to select?

The EULA is a joke, along with software licensing and most everything else they try to get away with on a regular basis.
Ok, JoeSoftwareInc, I just bought some of your crap and now it doesn’t do as you promised. Do I get my money back?
No. I opened the package. Well, how can I even see the EULA if I do not open it.
I have never read an EULA and never will. It’s time in my life I will never get back.

tobias robison (profile) says:

FIOS and cutting the land line

When we discussed installing FIOS, I said that we had to keep one land line in copper. (That line will still work after your home has had hours of power failure.) Our Verizon rep said that I was making a reasonable request, but I would have to discuss it with the contractor when FIOS was installed. We did not get FIOS.
There have been reports (that I cannot verify) that the copper line is almost always cut with FIOS is installed. That line represents an access point that other companies can use to compete with FIOS, so it is possible that cutting the copper line is part of a marketing strategy.

Hemidal says:

OT: Barak Obama is not a muslim, and did not use a Quaran for his oath of office. If you have any proof that he is or did please present it to a reputable news agency or Fox news even. Untill such proof is verified all the accusations are nothing but slander that his enamies hope will be repeted enough time so that the masses will think it is the truth.

All the lies surrounding him remind me of the ones that surounded McCain in 2000.

Chuck K says:

I hate to burst your bubbles......

I’ll caveat everything below by stating up front that I can NOT speak for Verizon, Time Warner, or any other company but my own. The information provided below is based solely on current industry practice and the laws that support them……

As an executive of an ISP who regularly competes with the likes of Verizon and Time Warner (and who sits on a few industry councils/committees), I hate to overturn the rocks that it seems many of you have been living under, but here are the “unfortunate” facts:

(1) EULAs and TOS are indeed legally binding contracts that are fully enforceable in US courts. Whether you have read them, understand them or comply with them has absolutely no impact whatsoever on their enforceability. It can have SOME impact on how a court decides the fate of the offender.

Along those same lines, and as hard as it is for even me to believe, BOTH contracts can, in most instances, be enforced even if you have NEVER SIGNED A SINGLE DOCUMENT acknowledging you were ever made aware that they existed. I won’t go into all the legal justification behind these facts, but suffice to say it all comes down to two very simple concepts:

(a) “Reasonable efforts” must be made by the enforcer to make you aware of the terms in place or being put in place, and

(b) “Reasonable methods” must be provided by the enforcer to allow you to cancel the contract if you do not agree with the terms.

Simply stated, if both of those conditions can be shown to apply, your are fully bound by the EULA, TOS or any other agreement a provider deems appropriate to put in place AT ANY TIME. In the parameters of the current blog, that means even if an end user never sees an EULA before buying the product, all a software vendor has to do is place a copy of the EULA in front of the user before the software can be used and require the end user’s acknowledgement of acceptance before installation can be completed OR the option to disagree with the EULA and automatically prevent installation. You’ve all seen this. The fact that you’ve probably clicked ‘I Agree’ without reading the pages of EULA is not a defense in court.

It is interesting to note that a few courts initially decided that it was not “reasonable” for someone to read and understand a multi page legal document when only being able to view it a paragraph (or sentance) at a time on a screen. In response to this, the software industry has pretty much adopted the capability of allowing you to print a copy of the EULA for your records BEFORE agreeing to it. There has not been any successful defense in US courts against enforcement of any EULA or TOS with this “printability”.

Perhaps just as disturbing is the fact that MOST EULAs and TOS contain clauses that state they can change terms and conditions at any time by merely posting same to their web sites 30 days in advance of such changes, and that if you continue to use the product, service or whatever beyond that period, you automatically accept the new terms and conditions !!!

Good, bad or otherwise, this paradigm has made its way into far more aspects of our lives than you might imagine. You need only look to the credit cards in your wallet for proof that terms, conditions and rates can change and your continued use after the change (without you otherwise “agreeing” to or “accepting” the changes) constitute proof that you’ve nonetheless accepted them.

Bringing this concept directly to the discussion of ISPs in general (and Verizon in specific), there is nothing which prohibits them from using the exact same paradigm. In its simplest derivation, that means that any ISP can change its TOS at will and your continued use of the service constitutes your acceptance. In other words, an ISP does NOT have to explicitly state that you can not run web servers, etc… or that it will block port XX, YY, or ZZ in its TOS. This is partially because what constitutes “Internet Access” remains a legal enigma. Generally speaking, if you can read a web page and send/receive a personal email, you have “Internet Access”.

Legally speaking, if you want to run a web server, mail server, game server or whatever, your ONLY protection to be able to do so is to demand such specific capabilities (or support for them) BEFORE (or as a written part of) any order you place for such services. Then, and ONLY THEN, do such factors become part of the vendor’s requirement in supplying you service. Without those conditions, an ISP who permits you to runs these services one day can literally turn them off 30 days later and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it other than to pay your bill (including any early termination penalty should you chose to disconnect).

It may seem unfair. It probably is. But those are the facts and the law (as currently in place in all 50 states) supports it.

So how might Verizon (or ANY ISP) get you to agree to TOS that you didn’t sign BEFORE ordering said service? Simple, if an ISP takes you order over the phone or web and in so doing, makes you aware that all terms and conditions are listed on their web site, they’ve generally met their requirements for enforceability if those terms and conditions allow you to cancel service within 30 days of installation. Another method is if the ISP forces your first connection to the Internet to be redirected to their TOS page (this is most often used in hotels for temporary Internet Access, but nonetheless applies in this instance too). There are many other methods which reduce cost and labor for the ISP over getting a signed, written contract, but you get the idea.

Finally, how does Verizon get away with cutting the copper lines to your home? Well, once again I want to stress that I can NOT speak for Verizon in any capacity so my answer below is solely my own and not meant to reflect anything about Verizon’s practices. However, that being said, I suspect that since Verizon most likely OWNS those lines (from the pole to your house), they are merely “upgrading” the infrastructure they own and are well within their legal rights to do so. By the way, the same holds true for your local cable company. The reason they disconnect at the pole instead of ripping the lines off your property is that its cheaper for them to leave them there. If they wanted to pull them out, they certainly could.

And for the gentlemen who “could care less about EULAs, etc…”, I can only say that he should hope no software company, ISP or other vendor ever decides to use him to set an example of how far they can enforce their contracts. Single users are rarely selected for such actions, but it has happened and will continue to happen from time to time. In those cases (you can look them up yourself), the maximum possible penlty is typically granted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I hate to burst your bubbles......

chuck said:
“There has not been any successful defense in US courts against enforcement of any EULA or TOS with this “printability”.”

Has the converse been upheld ? That is, has there been a case were the EULA was determined to be a binding contract between two parties in agreement ?

Lets assume that the EULA is enforcable as you have described. At what point does it become unreasonable, even unconscionable and therefore not enforcable ? For example, the author of the EULA decides to ammend it to say that you now owe a monthly fee. Is the consumer allowed to terminate the “contract” or is it automatically terminated because the terms have become unreasonable ?

HrilL says:

Re: I hate to burst your bubbles......

While I agree with everything you have said and it is all valid. There is one thing you are wrong about. You don’t have to pay a termination fee if they have changed the TOS or EULA because those are new terms that you did not originally agree to when you signed up. They can’t force you to agree to their new terms and thus they can’t charge you for not agreeing to new the new terms by continuing service. So even if you agreed to a year contract and they change the TOS or EULA after the first month you can cancel without a termination fee. This is how people get out of their phone contracts early a lot of times.

Duped says:

FIOS sucks big time

I am not a heavy user of internet. I started noticing problems after 5 months when I couldn’t get my OS updates. They have changed router twice and say they cann’t do anymore. It’s OK for browsing pages, but if you try to download anything big, like even QuickTime, the router just stalls. They have tied down my hands into this contract and I am just counting the days. I cann’t even get DSL now, because the copper line is cut. Only option is Comcast.

Aaron (user link) says:

fios

I was part of the fios launch when it first started with verizon. It was a big learning curve to figure out what phones, faxes, printers wouldnt work with the service fios. Once you go fios you cant go back to copper with verizon for the simple reason the old copper is pulled. FIOS is good if you dont make it complicated. Res user with 8 lines using it for bus finding a way to get a cheap line and gets fios = problems will occur!

John (profile) says:

Sorry to get political...

Sorry to get off-topic, but:

Like some of the posters said, Obama is NOT a Muslim or Islamic. Like they said, do some research beyond what’s fed to you in a chain e-mail. Many reputable (meaning non FOX News) sites clearly show Obama’s religious faith, which is NOT Muslim or Islamic.

At the same time, when you say you’re not voting for an Islamic, that’s the same as saying you’re not voting for a Jew, a Methodist, or anyone else because they have a faith that’s different from you.

Normally, I would say that this is very closed-minded, but unfortunately, this is the way of life in the United States.

Think about this:
-ALL the presidents have been white men.
-All but one president have been Christian. (The other was Protestant.)
-All but one have been married.
-2008 is the first time EVER that the idea of a woman president has been taken seriously. Yet, the idea of a woman leader has gone back for centuries, including numerous leaders of England (Margaret Thatcher, Victoria, Elizabeth), Russia (Catherine the Great), and even Egypt (Cleopatra).

Welcome to the 17th century where only white males of the Christian faith can be president of the United States.

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