The Microsoft Corporation is synonymous with PC technology. For many years, users have – in most cases – clicked “next” on the end user license agreements for Microsoft’s many software products without actually reading the license. On 25 May, 2012, Microsoft announced a change to its end user license agreement that is designed to prevent class action lawsuits.
Microsoft is about to release Windows 8, the newest in its market dominating line of computer operating systems. The end-user license agreement for Windows 8 will contain wording that is designed to force the user to give up their right to participate in class action lawsuits against the software behemoth. Microsoft is not the first company to take this action.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States permitted the type of language that is included in the new end-user license agreement. The agreement will force users to bring a lawsuit in small claims court or to submit to arbitration if any disputes with the manufacturer cannot be resolved informally. According to the Supreme Court ruling that made this possible, companies are allowed to issue contracts that state that only informal arbitration or claims brought on an individual basis can be used to settle disputes.
What Are Class Actions?
Lawyers at work on class-action lawsuits are generally representing a large number of people who constitute the operative “class” in the name. The class of people represented in the lawsuit will have all suffered similar damages and had similar experiences due to the negligence or the defective product of the defendant.
Class action lawsuits are intended as mechanisms that increase access to the courts for people who don’t have a great deal of money and that also lesson the strain on the court systems when a lot of people have a very similar claim. By suing as a class, the particulars of many different lawsuits can be heard in one representative case and the jury can determine whether or not the members of the class are entitled to some sort of compensation.
Since the Supreme Court ruled that companies can require that any lawsuits be brought individually, more companies are seeking to insert this type of language into their contracts. Be sure to take a look at the end-user license agreement for any software or hardware product you purchase. Sometimes, these agreements have language in them that might surprise you and that may make you think twice about clicking “next”.