UK WiFi Company Uses Overlong TOS To Trick Hotspot Users Into Cleaning Toilets, Hugging Stray Cats
from the sign-your-life-away dept
So we’ve talked for years about how overlong terms of service contracts that nobody reads are used to eliminate your rights in numerous ways. That includes stripping away your legal rights and forcing you to engage in binding arbitration, which results in the company-employed arbitrator ruling in their employer’s favor a vast majority of the time. In fact Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, recently cited these overlong and misleading contracts as one of the biggest threats to the health and utility of his invention.
Every so often we’ll see a company conduct an experiment to demonstrate the stupidity of long-normalized behavior, like the company in 2010 that got users to sign off on selling their soul. Taking a cue out of that playbook, UK WiFi hotspot operator Purple recently did something similar, burying a provision in their terms of service requiring that customers engage in 1,000 hours of menial labor if they wanted to access the internet.
Purple currently provides hotspot connectivity to Legoland, Outback Steakhouse and Pizza Express, and stated in a blog post that they provided patrons with a wonderful array of possibilities in terms of how to pay down their community service time, including:
The company says it ultimately found that over 22,000 users blindly signed off on the requirement during the two week period during which the experiment was conducted. It should go without saying that they won’t be enforcing the rules, but wanted to simply get a little free press while highlighting the stupidity of overlong TOS. Impressively, they note that during the two-week trial, just one user actually noticed what he was signing off on:
“Don?t worry, we aren?t going to round up these individuals and ask them to don their rubber gloves and repay the community debt. The real reason behind our experiment is to highlight the lack of consumer awareness when signing up to use free WiFi. All users were given the chance to flag up the questionable clause in return for a prize, but remarkably only one individual, which is 0.000045% of all WiFi users throughout the whole two-weeks, managed to spot it.”
While these pranks go a long way in highlighting the problem, there’s few if any real efforts to actually do much of anything about it. We desperately need simpler, cleaner terms of service updated for the digital age, but since companies adore using these lengthy, confusing contracts to protect themselves, hamstring your product ownership rights and make additional revenue, nothing much ever changes.