Feeds

Consumer group slams 'unfair' software licenses

EULAugh, I cry

Boost IT visibility and business value

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." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
Judge nixes HP deal for director amnesty after $8.8bn Autonomy snafu
Lawyers will have to earn their keep the hard way, says court
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
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?