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Certain clickwrap, browserwrap and sign-in wrap agreements may soon be under legal fire. Anyone who uses — or is considering using — these types of contracts should set aside a minute to read this post. Why? We’ll explain why sign-in wraps may soon be a bad idea. Also, we’ll go over the different types of “user agreement wraps”.
In-Flight Wireless Provider Accused of Using Tricky Clickwrap Agreement, And Overcharging Consumers
Gogo LLC (“Gogo”) provides airplane wireless services. In fact, it dominates the in-flight Internet connection niche. But if a proposed class action lawsuit against Gogo is green lit, one of the possible rulings could be an internet law game-changer regarding sign-in wrap user agreements.
User Contract Includes Payment Fine Print
First, A Little About Gogo
Gogo was one of the first firms to recognize the profit potential of in-flight wireless service. Today, it’s one of the biggest players in the field. Passengers crisscrossing the globe can choose between Gogo’s monthly (about $40 a month) and daily (about $10 a day) packages.
The Different Types of “Digital Wrap” Agreements
Browserwrap Agreement (also browse-wrap and browser-wrap) = Consent is given by using the site;
Clickwrap Agreement (also click-wrap) = User must click “I agree” to accept the terms;
Scroll-Wrap Agreement = User must scroll to the bottom of a document, and then click to accept terms;
Sign-In Wrap Agreement = The act of signing up to use a given service constitutes assent to the terms.
Clickwrap Agreement Lawsuit filed in 2014
But all that connects 37,000 feet in the air isn’t gold. According to at least two Gogo clients – Adam Berkson and Kerry Walsh – the company may be enrolling unwitting participants in an automatic monthly billing program. And even more unfortunately for Gogo, the pair’s claim may spawn a class action lawsuit.
Plaintiff’s Fundamental Argument In Potential Gogo Class Action
Berkson, Walsh and a handful of yet unnamed Gogo customers believe that the in-flight internet company is taking consumers for a fast ride. How? By tricking people into signing up for an automatic monthly service package as opposed to the one-time agreement most people think they’re getting. Plaintiffs insist that misleading graphics and an unclear terms of service all contributed to the deception.
Even though Gogo’s user agreement included an arbitration waiver, the judge ruled that in this case, customers are “not bound by mandatory arbitration and waiver of venue provisions.” Average users, the court also opined, “would not have been informed, in the circumstances presented in this case, that [they were] binding [themselves] to a sign-in-wrap.”
The class certification hearing is on July 9, 2015.
Judge Exhibits Some Tech Acumen at Clickwrap Agreement Hearing
The presiding judge in Gogo’s terms-of-service lawsuit has, encouragingly, exhibited a bit of tech acumen. Specifically, he considered color-coded graphics detailing “eye-tracking tendencies” that analyzed “comprehension between the printed page and computer screen and how the average user interacts with privacy policies, web-based advertisements and hyperlinks.”
Potential Consequences If This Browser Wrap Class Action Is Successful
Main Legal Question: Which Types of User Agreements Should Be Made Illegal?
If the Gogo class action moves forward, the main question will be: “How should courts deal with hybrid versions of browser wrap, click wrap and electronic contracts of adhesion – a.k.a., sign-in wrap?”
Showing a cheeky side, during the latest hearing, the presiding Judge quoted John Oliver, condemning: “If Apple put the entire text of Mein Kampf in their user agreement, you’d still click agree.”