Most of us never take the time to actually read the “Terms and Conditions” that go along with our purchase of devices and software. These conditions limit us in ways we never imagined possible. Some allow the company to shut off our computers or make us responsible for accidental damages, while others lock us into two- or three-year contracts. The later is one of my most despised provisions – you see it all the time – and I think it should die a quick death in some Louisiana Swamp. But that’s just me.
Companies often do such things and they do it with our consent whether we realize it or not.
Below are a few excerpts from actual terms and conditions followed by a short comment to put them in a layman’s perspective. They were picked at random from a list of popular companies that almost everyone is familiar with. Not picking on any company per se, almost all of them have these same or similar terms and conditions.
(AT&T Terms and Conditions Section 7)
“7. FORCE MAJEURE
AT&T shall have no liability for any loss or damage caused by any of the following force majeure conditions: fires, floods, explosions, strikes, embargoes, power blackouts, earthquakes,volcanic actions, wars, water, the elements, labor disputes, riots, thefts, acts of the public enemy, accidents, acts of God, acts of government, acts or omissions of Customer, acts or omissions of third parties, changes in work practices, inability to obtain necessary labor or materials, acts or omissions of any communications carriers or any other cause beyond the reasonable control of AT&T, whether or not similar to the foregoing.”
This basically implies they will not cover anything other than a defect in the device itself despite the fact they advertise certain models of their phones as being waterproof. AT&T, like Netflix and many other companies, has an arbitration clause that limits the consumer to arbitration only. So, no lawsuits. And what exactly is an “act of government?” You may need a lawyer to explain that one. You may also want to check your homeowner’s insurance. You may find you’re walking around with an uninsured $500 cell phone.
(Microsoft Windows 7 Terms and Conditions Section 8)
“8. SCOPE OF LICENSE.
The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights
to use the features included in the software edition you licensed. Microsoft reserves all other rights unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation, youmay use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways.”
Okay Microsoft, so you’re telling me that despite the fact that I spent $400 on this software, I don’t actually own it, I am just paying for the “license” or right to use it. I know from personal experience that if you upgrade four or more hardware items on your computer at one time, Microsoft considers that a “different” computer and a new license is required for it. An alternative for this is the Linux operating system. Linux is free to download and install on as many computers as you would like without registration or activation.You may also modify and freely distribute Linux with one stipulation: you cannot charge for it.
(Netflix Terms and Conditions Section 15)
BINDING ARBITRATION SIMPLY MEANS THAT YOU AGREE TO GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO GO TO COURT OR SUE. On a side note, if you own a cell phone or have a credit card, then you have given up your right to trial and have agreed to arbitration only, regardless of the circumstances. Simply put; if your cell phone blows up and burns the side of your face, you have no rights to sue, but simply agree to the bindings of an arbitration.
So the next time you sign up for or purchase a product, you might want to do a little research and actually read through those “terms and conditions.” You may find you have few rights as a consumer, or you may find yourself locked into one of those aforementioned two-year contracts with no escape. When doing your research for phones, computers etc. read the fine print and look at free alternatives that have no binding and limiting contracts. They are out there, but it takes some searching to find them.