Feeds

Consumer group slams 'unfair' software licenses

EULAugh, I cry

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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." ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
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.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.