Friday, June 8, 2007

Egregious EULA Clauses

Imagine now for a few minutes...
If you as a consumer had a radio in your car, and the radio was say, a tape deck, with just AM/FM stereo with no bass boost, no cool features at all... Now you go to your favorite Tech store, and you spot a radio system that is lets say- $150.00 and you notice it is on sale, and it retails for lets say-  $205.00.  It has bass boost, 5 cd changer, stereo, AM/FM radio.  It kicks butt over the old system you already have in your car.  It's not the very best system, but it sure beats what you already have in your car. So you purchase the new radio. Take it home, and go to install the system in your car.  But you are stopped in your tracks because it is considered a upgrade instead of a fix.  You can't install it, because you don't have the tools to install it, and you find out the radio is NOT a fix for the existing system.  So you have to take the car to the Tech store because only they can install it using special tools, and you have to pay them a upgrade fee of say $199.00.  Plus instillation fees, of $75.00.   Because there is nothing wrong with your older radio, it still works, you just can't play CDs and the thing sounds like a tinty wannabe radio.  I mean it sounds bad, but it still works.  So the new radio will cost you  $424.00  total instead of just the $150.00 for JUST the radio. 
Lets take it a step further here... Say you bought the radio, took it home just to find out you have to pay GM a $335.00 licensing fee before you could install the upgraded radio system?  Why you say?  Because you are changing out the hardware that came originally equipped on the car.
Is this fair?  Is it right to charge the consumer just because they want a better hardware product?  
Another narrative to this is the radio died.  Your car is brand new, so you run to the dealer and they tell you it has to be replaced,  so the guy at the dealership installs another radio  and it is used!  Been sitting on the shelf for months, right after they refurbish it, and no telling if it works or not.  Who knows it could be a lemon.  But you can't have a new radio because when you bought the car you was agreeing to their 50 page EULA!  Remember those papers you had to sign?  Too bad if you don't, because you DID buy the car, and drove it off the lot, so that means you agreed to their terms of service!  So the dealer does not have to give you a brand new radio, because it is stating this in their EULA.
Here is something else...  Say you bought a brand new car, and drove it off the lot, and went straight to the radio tech guy to have him install a bass, and subwoofer speaker set in the trunk of your new car.  But he tells you he can only do that if you pay for a new licensing fee which will cost you $299.00.  But then he notices you have a certain brand of car, and he then tells you that you can't because that is considered a enhancement feature, and you are not permitted to fix a flaw with the radio system you have in that brand of car.  IN other words, you may know it will play better, but you are not permitted to upgrade the speakers to play the radio better.  You can not fix the technical limitations of the radio. What you have installed in the car, is what you have to deal with, and you can not change it to make it better. 
Each of these narratives are happening to you right now as you read this blog.  It is not happening to your car though.  It is happening to your computer.  As you read this, the software and hardware as well as the manufacturer has stripped your consumer rights away from you.   So far a EULA has not been challenged in Court by the consumer market.  One reason is that because the industry has large players.  It would be hard for you, or even a small run business to go up against them.  After careful digging around.  I found out that most of the EULAs would not have a chance in the court room.  Mainly because they are so far fetched, and outlandish.  Most of the EULAs strip the consumer of their rights, and leave them with no recourse to resolve any type issue in their favor, that they may encounter with their computer.  You bought it, so therefore you agreed to the terms of the EULA.  It doesn't matter how outlandish the EULA is... The EULA is theirs, and you have to agree to it regardless.  I tend to believe that if a consumer HAS to agree only under duress.  The EULA is already compromissed, and is void.  They have no choice if they have no other options but to use that certain software, or that certain computer brand. They can't fight because the industry has such a hold right now, they would be hard pressed even trying to find a Lawyer to tackle the case. 
So if someone else demands they use a certain software, or hardware, or if they can only afford a certain brand of computer, unfortunately you have no say so on either end. Your very livelihood is shot to hell, this industry has their own rules, and their rules can change every day of the week, and it doesn't matter when you first agreed to the EULA... You will always be in agreement to their new and improved version of their EULA regardless if you read the EULA or not. Because you are still using their software, or their hardware, or computer brand.  
In all honesty, to me it is a forced agreement on every level.  You need the software,  you can't say no to the EULA, because you need the software.  Plus with today's computers, and everyone telling everyone they need it for school, work, home.  How can you say no?  You are screwed as soon as you take the computer out of the box. It is the same way with software.  The industry knows this.  They are not stupid.  They know they can put what ever they want in the EULA, you will either read, and ignore, or just ignore the EULA and click on the "I accept".  They are counting on you to do either of these things.  Because they know you have no choice but to accept.  They also know this is duress.  I guess they are hoping you are not that smart to see it, for what it really is. 
No one is looking out for the consumer.  No one cares?  It may look that way.  But until something major happens, and the whole computer industry is put on trial, don't expect this same industry to care.  They are number one, and that is all they care about.  Eventually the crazy rules will spill into the business sect.  (If they haven't already, they could of, and the business industry hasn't looked at the EULA either.)  The lawsuits will come. Just look for a big player that has grown tired of the riff raff, and the outlandish EULAs.  They will be the one to balance the playing field. It is a shame it has to happen in Court.  But by then, it could be a blessing too. Because if it's bad for the business sect, it will be twice as bad for the everyday consumer. 

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