Can You Agree To An EULA You Never Saw?

from the probably-not dept

Slashdot points us to an interesting article about a guy involved in a legal fight with computer maker Gateway over whether or not he agreed to an arbitration clause in an end user license agreement (EULA) for his new computer. In this case, the guy claims his computer never worked properly, so he couldn't even see the on-screen license agreement that apparently included an arbitration clause, saying that he would agree to arbitrate any dispute, rather than take it to court. He then sued Gateway over problems with the machine. The case here doesn't have anything to do with whether or not that lawsuit has merit, but whether or not it could even go to court at all. Gateway contends that the guy shouldn't be able to take them to court because of the arbitration clause. But, of course, the guy claims he couldn't read the license agreement, so he certainly never agreed to it. The court found that the guy made a compelling enough case that he had not seen the license agreement, and therefore can not be forced to go to arbitration (even as some experts suggest that he actually would be better off going to arbitration, rather than through the courts). However, it also raises the question (not answered here) over what does constitute an official agreement. I've been told by lawyers that such arbitration clauses aren't even enforceable in California, but either way, with plenty of evidence that most people never read the EULAs they agree to, could they argue that the clauses don't apply as well?

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  1. icon
    Heidi (profile), 9 Jun 2007 @ 3:31pm

    Re: Re: What happens if you don't agree?

    I actually wrote a paper on this last year. There's a couple of legal theories that can either support or deny EULA enforceability. It all depends on the judge. There were a couple of cases that happened at roughly the same time that are very similar to this one. In those cases, the plaintiffs had ordered computers to be delivered to their homes. They came in normal shipping boxes with shipping labels slapped everywhere. Apparently, under the labels their was a notice that by opening the box, you agreed to the EULA (which was packaged in the box, of course).

    One judge ruled for the plaintiffs, while another judge in a different part of the country ruled again. It's still really unclear as to what makes a EULA enforceable or not.

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