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The web amd the lake of fire

Posted: October 25, 2013 11:40 a.m.
Updated: October 25, 2013 11:40 a.m.

Carl Kanowsky

 

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Book of Revelations, chapter 28, verse 1.

Well, we are all going for a dip into the “lake of fire.”

I am willing to bet that everyone who is reading this has committed one of the heinous crimes mentioned above.

How do I know this? Haven’t each and every one of you clicked yes online when the website you’re at asks you to affirm, “Yes, I have read the terms and conditions of using this site.” Did any of you actually read the “terms and conditions?” Of course not.

Result – you’re a liar. So, you’d better be stocking up on flame-retardant swimwear because you’re on a direct course to that cauldron.

As we all know, none of the website administrators believe that hundreds of millions of folks worldwide are daily reviewing terms like Dispute Resolution or Choice of Laws. Each website relies on the enforceability of its terms because you checked the box.

But, Skype may be disillusioned to learn that its confidence was not well placed.

In Chapman v. Skype, Melissa Chapman argues that she should not be bound by her box checking because Skype, at a minimum, was negligent in its advertising or perhaps even downright deceitful.

Melissa is apparently someone with friends around the world. Many, many friends. And she’s desperate to talk with each one on a regular basis.

She’s got so many amigos, amis, freunds, amici that she needed a calling plan that wouldn’t cost her a fortune to speak with all of these people.

Enter Skype and its “Unlimited” calling plan.

Chapman signed up for it, believing that she could call her closest 150,000 friends incessantly and not rack up any more charges that the flat fee for the “Unlimited” plan.

Ah, but here is where both Chapman and Skype likely will qualify as a swimmer in the fiery body of water.

Skype does offer an “Unlimited World” plan for 40 countries. Unlimited means no limits, right?

So, if you buy the plan you should be able to call each resident of each of the forty countries daily at no additional charge. But, Skype couldn’t allow this so it put a little number next to the word Unlimited which directed you to a statement that the plan was actually limited to a “fair usage policy.”

This policy says “that the calling plan is limited to 6 hours per day, 10,000 minutes per month and 50 numbers called per day.” Thus, Unlimited transforms into Limited.

Before signing for the limited Unlimited plan, Melissa checked “a box affirming that ‘I agree to the Skype Terms of Service’ before purchasing any subscription.”

Of course she hadn’t really read any of the terms, for if she had she would not have agreed to the concept of a limited Unlimited plan.

Once she found out that if called more than 50 friends or spent more than seven full days on the phone in one month she would pay additional charges, she sued Skype for unfair competition and false advertising.

And, thankfully, Melissa sued not just on her behalf but for all of us who feel unreasonably constrained because we can only spend six hours a day on the phone.

Skype cried foul, saying that Chapman had agreed to the terms, so she should be bound by them. The trial court agreed, throwing out the case.

Chapman appealed, saying that she was entitled to her day in court.

The Court of Appeal agreed ruling that saying something was unlimited when it really wasn’t could be viewed as being deceptive and fraudulent.

The Justices ruled that it was too early in the case to determine whether Skype’s referral to a Fair Usage Policy was sufficient disclosure that it really didn’t mean Unlimited when it said it.

Don’t go swimming in that lake of fire. Don’t call your product or service something it isn’t. And don’t say you’ve read something if you haven’t. Remember, those sulfur burns are really nasty.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Mr. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

 

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