Software licences are obscure, unbalanced and unfair, according to the National Consumer Council (NCC), which has filed a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). It wants the OFT to force software publishers to use clearer licences.
The NCC says that consumers are stripped of their rights by overly-legal licences that they cannot understand, and has called for licences to be written in plain English, in line with OFT guidelines. The NCC bought 25 software products and found problems with the licences in 17 of them. It has referred these for investigation by the OFT to find out if they breach consumer legislation that demands that contracts be fair. It said that problems include a lack of notice that users will even have to sign an end user licence agreement (EULA), and the fact that they do not have a chance to review it before purchasing software. "Plugging the gaps in consumer legislation is a vital move," said Carl Belgrove, senior policy advocate at the NCC. "Consumers can't have a clue what they're signing up to when some terms and conditions run to 10 or more pages. There's a significant imbalance between the rights of the consumer and the rights of the holder."
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