Feeds

Consumer group slams 'unfair' software licenses

EULAugh, I cry

Security for virtualized datacentres

Some of the world's biggest software companies are facing possible investigation by the UK's Office of Fair Trading because their licensing agreements are unfair.

The UK's National Consumer Council (NCC) checked 25 products, including Microsoft Office for Mac 2004, Corel WordPerfect Office X3, Apple iLife, Adobe Photoshop, Norton, Kaspersky and McAfee anti-virus products, and games Command and Conquer 3, Football Manager 2007, and Supreme Commander.

The group said end user licence agreements, or EULAs, mislead consumers and remove legal rights.

Part of the NCC complaint is that in many cases consumers are not told they will have to sign such a license when they buy the product. Most display the EULA either when you first use the product or in the instruction manual - either way consumers have no way of checking it before they buy the software.

And, of course, the typical EULA is a dozen pages long and written in impenetrable legalese.

Of the 25 products investigated, 14 made no mention of any license agreement on the packaging.

Many of the terms of the license are also potentially unfair, the NCC said. EULAs often allow the provider to terminate the contract at will or remove services with no reciprocal rights for the buyer. Restrictions on selling the license on could also be unfair.

The NCC is calling on software companies to provide up-front information on licenses, write licenses in plain English, and not shift the legal burden onto the buyer.

It is calling on the OFT to examine unfair contract terms mentioned in the report and for the European Commission to bring forward extending Consumer Sales and Sales Guarantees Directives to include digital contracts and license agreements.

The OFT declined to comment on this story. All its investigations are secret in the early stages.

Microsoft sent us the following statement: "Microsoft has not yet seen the detail of the NCC’s report and so we are unable to comment on the detail at this stage. However, Microsoft is committed to dealing fairly with consumers and addressing any concerns they may have and would be happy to talk to the NCC directly about its concerns." ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.