It’s Time For A Revision Of The User Agreement
Everyone has encountered the user agreement. It used to be one of those things that was a good idea, but with how software is used now, it has become something that either needs to be done away with or dramatically revised.
When video game systems and computers were still in their infancy, you were able to buy software (including games) with the knowledge that if you didn’t like it (for example) you could sell them on the used market without much of an issue. Now, though, user agreements are combined with other factors that are gutting the used software market. However, that isn’t the biggest problem with the agreements.
Companies, most of which act in good faith, put into almost every agreement that if their product causes problems for your system you have to use arbitration instead of being able to sue them like you would any other company. Other legal wording seems to say that any problems the consumers have are not the company’s problem.
The issues with this are the fact that you have to agree to their terms just to try the product, which, in many cases, makes them unable to be used by anyone else after. Then, you are told to either agree to the company’s terms or you have bought nothing but a paperweight. Unless, of course, you want to go through the hassle of returning something after not agreeing to the terms the company offers.
Until recently, this was an issue just with software, but now you have these types of agreements when you buy a new phone and turn it on for the first time. Samsung even has one for their smart TVs now.
It shows the major problem with the user agreements in the fact that it lets companies make deals that affect consumers while leaving the consumer powerless over the thing they have purchased. This shows the user agreement needs revising in application as well as wording.
If a company puts out a product that is not properly tested and it causes harms to consumers’ machines then they should not be bound by one person’s opinion of how much they are entitled to for compensation. That is like saying once an insurance company says what you are entitled to for damages that it is the end of it. If the insurance industry tried to do something like this, we would be up in arms. Since it is only electronics, we seem to let it slide. Why do we do this? One of my theories is that it is because most of the things the user agreement is applied to are so new to most, combined with the fact that legislatures are stuck in the past with what they are discussing.
In truth, legislation concerning modern electronic devices, along with modern software, is needed to keep consumers from being taken advantage of as well as to ensure a healthy economy within the internet.
Legal wording should never be used to shield a company from its responsibilities, nor should it be used to harm a company at the benefit of one consumer. It should be written and applied evenly in a manner that treats both parties fairly, something we often fail to do in this country. This, along with piracy, is how the user agreement came about in the first place.
It is now used in such a manner as to encourage abuse and misuse due to its widespread use, along with lack of court interpretation on many things. It is used on things from Facebook to TVs and game consoles. It is time to legislate the future in a manner with which all parties are treated equally and within a manner where anyone with the power to prevent harm from happening online is held accountable instead of user agreements shielding them from accountability.
*Tips his hat and walks out the door to the video game store.*