Feeds

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

Discount scheme deception

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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."

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
HBO shocks US pay TV world: We're down with OTT. Netflix says, 'Gee'
This affects every broadcaster, every cable guy
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
French 'terror law' declares WAR on the INTERNET itself, say digi-rights folks
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité: Two out of three ain't bad
SCREW YOU, EU: BBC rolls out Right To Remember as Google deletes links
Not even Google can withstand the power of Auntie
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.