Google Fiber has single-handedly altered the terms in its user agreement in a way that forces customers to give up their legal right to sue a company in court, unless they choose to opt out.
But the time window to opt out is extremely tight as the company altered the language in the contract on June 9 and customers now have less than three weeks to file a form to opt out.
So what did exactly Google Fiber do? It followed the footsteps of other ISPs such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon to silently force customers unhappy with the service into binding arbitration, a legal procedure that resolves complaints outside of a court of law.
If a customer is smart enough to opt out, he or she will be able to sue Google Fiber and join a class action lawsuit. But because Google made the move behind customers’ back, it is highly unlikely that there would be many customers left to join such suits.
Binding arbitration, on the other hand, is very beneficial to big companies due to several reasons. Most rulings favor big companies as history has shown. Plus, biding arbitration rulings cannot be appealed even though a blatant mistake is involved.
Furthermore, individual customers will need a lot of cash and good luck to find a lawyer to represent them as damages are limited. By contrast, class action suits work to the benefit of the consumer as more plaintiffs have greater financial power to support a resource-consuming lawsuit.
Google updated its policy on June 9 and notified customers through e-mail earlier this week. But a recent report has shown that only 7 percent of customers actually understand the terms and legalese in financial contracts.
So expect most Google Fiber users to blindly agree to sign a clause that will deprive them of their basic right to sue somebody in court. Plus, the new terms put a ban on class actions. As a result, a business could do damage to millions of users but it will only be held accountable to a select few.
Google Fiber declined to comment on the changes.
Still, there’s a light of hope. Customers can opt out within 30 days of accepting the changes. You can only opt out from your Fiber account through an online form.
Unfortunately, if you are not already a Fiber subscriber you will be forced to play by Google’s rules if you ever decide to join its services.
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