The class action lawsuit is the most valued weapon in the consumer's arsenal. It allows consumers to bring the wrongdoings of companies into the wider public sphere of discussion and get others who have been wronged to add their voices to the cause. In a recent disturbing trend, however, companies have been updating their user agreements to outright ban such actions. Microsoft is the latest to join in.
In a post that's written with enough flowery language to make a pretentious English grad student cry, Microsoft lays out their new user agreement that will be going into effect with Windows 8. The main point of the new user agreement is that disgruntled consumers can not bring class action lawsuits against Microsoft in regards to Windows 8.
Microsoft proudly parades its new policy with a badge that says, "Supreme Court approved." That's because the Supreme Court pretty much killed any chances of a class action lawsuit's success last year in AT&T Mobility v. Concepion. The case made it so that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempted any state laws that prohibited companies from barring class action lawsuits.
Of course, Microsoft thinks that the consumer is getting the fair deal here by touting one of the best arbitration provisions in the country. Here's what they have to say on that:
We permit arbitration wherever the customer lives, promptly reimburse filing fees, and, if we offer less to resolve a dispute informally than an arbitrator ultimately awards, we will pay the greater of the award or $1,000 for most products and services—plus double the customer’s reasonable attorney’s fees. Most important, this approach means customer complaints will be resolved promptly, and in those cases where the arbitrator agrees with the customer’s position, the customer will receive generous compensation, and receive it quickly.
Wow, that sounds pretty fantastic. I'm willing to bet that Microsoft will stay true to that promise as well. Consumers are going to be well taken care of and not many are going to complain about the terms listed above. Microsoft gets to keep on making products and consumers can go run to arbitration when a product doesn't work as advertised.
It's great for businesses, but the consumer no longer has a voice. Sure, they can file for arbitration and get their money back, but that's not the point of a class action lawsuit. It's never been about the money. It's about collecting voices together in general dissent towards a company's suspect practices and letting the country know that you and others have been wronged.
Microsoft isn't doing themselves or the consumer any favors with this change. All it does is move to silence those that may have a legitimate complaint against the company.
But hey, at least Microsoft has a 45-day refund policy and they reimburse you up to $7 on shipping costs. That totally makes up for everything.[h/t: The Register]