Microsoft Hopes to Block Lawsuits Using new TOS

A new Terms of Service agreement from Microsoft appears to be an attempt to stop users from entering class action lawsuits against the company, according to a report in the LA Times.  They report a Microsoft announcement that says changes to TOS for both Windows operating system and XBox game system users will require that those users agree not to enter class action suits against the company.

According to the LA Times:

“When a customer in the United States has a dispute about a Microsoft product or service, many of our new user agreements will require that, if we can’t informally resolve the dispute, the customer bring the claim in small claims court or arbitration, but not as part of a class-action lawsuit,” Microsoft’s assistant general counsel, Tim Fielden, said in a blog post.

“We made this change to our terms of use for Xbox Live several months ago, and we will implement similar changes in user agreements for other products and services in the coming months as we roll out major licensing, hardware or software releases and updates,” he said.

Fielden argued that the policy switch “gives Microsoft powerful incentives to resolve any dispute to the customer’s satisfaction before it gets to arbitration,” and that it means “customer complaints will be resolved promptly.”

According to Christine Hines of Public Citizen, this is not an unusual move, Microsoft has just been more vocal about it than other companies have.  Disallowing class action suits in TOS is becoming a trend in the technology industry.

A disturbing trend, obviously, and one that takes away the ability of consumers to have a choice in how they pursue perceived wrongs by big business.  The legality stems from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving AT&T in which the company’s arbitration requirement in its terms of service were questioned by a class action suit which sought to ignore them as unconstitutional.  In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court went in favor of AT&T, changing the landscape of civil suit nationally.  And not just for tech, but for every sector.

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