Intellectual Property |  May 27, 2014

Is Apple in breach of EU Consumer Rights law?

On the 13th May 2014 the Norwegian Consumer Council lodged a complaint against Apple with Norway’s Consumer Ombudsman. According to the complaint, Apple’s iCloud service violates European consumer law by allowing Apple to change its terms and conditions at any time without giving notice to its customers.

Whilst Norway is not a member of the EU, it is a party to the European Economic Area Agreement and is therefore a member of the internal market, meaning that it implements most EU legislation. The unfair practice complaint is in fact based on the EU Directive on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts. Interestingly, the European Commission set up an expert group to identify safe and fair terms and conditions for cloud computing services for consumers and small firms in June last year.

iCloud is an online service that allows users to store data including documents, photos, and music. This data may be uploaded and is accessible from anywhere over the internet. The Council argues that, because of the personal nature of the information stored, it is particularly important that the terms and conditions (which represents the contractual agreement between Apple and its consumers) are clear and fair.

The complaint is based on the article found on the iCloud terms and conditions which reads as follows:

“Apple reserves the right to modify this agreement and to impose new or additional terms and conditions on your use of the service. If you do not agree with them, you must stop using the service and contact iCloud Support to retrieve your content. Your continued use of the service will be deemed acceptance of such modifications and additional terms and conditions.”

The Council noted that Apple‘s iCloud service is the only online storage service which does not promise to inform consumers of changes to terms and conditions prior to their implementation and which does not give consumers a chance to accept, complain or leave the service before such changes are effected.

This development is of particular interest to online service providers when it comes to drafting their terms and conditions, particularly insofar as these stipulate the procedure for making changes thereto.

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