Feeds

Telling lies to a computer is still lying, rules High Court

Discount scheme deception

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

A person can be guilty of deceit when he lies to a machine rather than a human, a judge has ruled. Renault sued over abuse of a discount scheme and won the deception-by-computer argument. But its case was thrown out because it profited from the abuse.

A company called Fleetpro Technical Services ran an affinity scheme with Renault UK, which entitled members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and their immediate families to discounts on new Renault cars. Fleetpro took orders that were then entered into Renault's computer system. Renault S A, the French parent company, then built each car to order.

The deception

Over a 10 month period, Fleetpro placed 217 vehicles through the scheme. But only three of these orders came from eligible members of the scheme. The other 214 vehicles were bought at a discount to which the buyer should not have been entitled.

It transpired that the sole director and employee of Fleetpro, Russell Thoms, had been running a website that passed on the discounts to other internet brokers who resold the cars to members of the public.

Renault sued Fleetpro and Thoms, citing losses of almost £700,000.

The evidence showed that when Thoms took orders via his site, he sent them by email to a Renault fleet sales executive citing the code BALPA or the number 46172, thereby representing that the order was destined for a qualifying customer. The executive printed the emails and his assistant entered them into the computer system of Renault UK. That action ordered the car from Renault UK's parent company in France and recorded the order as a beneficiary of the discount scheme.

According to the judgment, the assistant's was "the last human brain in contact with the claim that a particular order fell within the terms of the discount scheme".

A fraudulent misrepresentation can be made to a machine

"The point of principle which thus arises is whether it is possible in law to find a person liable in deceit if the fraudulent misrepresentation alleged was made not to a human being, but to a machine," wrote judge Richard Seymour QC.

"I see no objection in principle to holding that a fraudulent misrepresentation can be made to a machine acting on behalf of the claimant, rather than to an individual, if the machine is set up to process certain information in a particular way in which it would not process information about the material transaction if the correct information were given," he continued.

"For the purposes of the present action, as it seems to me, a misrepresentation was made to the Importer [Renault UK] when the Importer’s computer was told that it should process a particular transaction as one to which the discounts for which the [pilots' affinity scheme] provided applied, when that was not in fact correct."

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'
Scrutiny committee bods probe derailed database project
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves
Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.