Tracking the terms
One of the perceived advantages of cloud computing services is the ability of service providers to update and upgrade their software in a seamless manner, without having to install new software on customers’ systems.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has now set up a new site, TOSBack.org, to track these changes in policy on a range of major websites, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and Google. It’s somewhat US-centric, but a number of the terms and policies listed will be relevant to UK users.
UK businesses need to bear in mind that the technical ability to change their online terms is not necessarily matched by the legal ability to enforce those terms. Terms in consumer contracts allowing unilateral variations to the terms are likely to be invalid under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 unless they are carefully drafted (see the OFT’s very helpful guidance on the Unfair Terms Regulations). Any change which adversely affects consumers’ rights is likely to be unenforceable, and may also give rise to harmful publicity, as experienced by Facebook.