updated 06:40 pm EST, Wed February 20, 2008
The UK National Consumer Council (NCC) has called for increased, regulated mitigation of what it calls practices by software companies that "mislead computer users into signing away legal rights," -- including Apple. The organization is asking the European Commission to extend the scope of the Consumer Sales and Sales Guarantees Directives to include digital contracts and license agreements. NCC says its research reveals that software rights-holders are shifting the legal burden onto consumers who buy computer software, leaving them with less protection, providing companies an "unfair advantage over consumers."
The NCC shopping survey of 25 software products found a "widespread lack of clear, upfront information written in plain English." The NCC says that more than half of the 25 products surveyed did not mention on the packaging that the consumer has to sign an end user license agreement (EULA) before they can use it, and only four of the companies included a web link to an online copy of the agreement, and six more included paper copies inside the instruction manual that could only be accessed after opening the pack. On seven products the only option was to read the agreement onscreen. This means that consumers are unable to make informed decisions before they buy a product, yet are being forced to take on an unknown level of legal responsibility.
17 companies NCC has referred to the OFT for investigation are: Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, Chief Architect, Symantec, Magix, Nero, Corel, Sega, Nova Development, Britannica, Sonic Solutions, Twelve Tone Systems, THQ, GSP, McAfee, Kaspersky.