back to article Telling lies to a computer is still lying, rules High Court

A person can be guilty of deceit when he lies to a machine rather than a human, a judge has ruled. Renault sued over abuse of a discount scheme and won the deception-by-computer argument. But its case was thrown out because it profited from the abuse. A company called Fleetpro Technical Services ran an affinity scheme with …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    lieing to a computer

    Makes sense to me. Seems to me it's no different to filling in a form and putting a lie in the form, you aren't lieing to the piece of paper but to the person who ends up acting on the information on the form.

    Though I wonder what will happen with these "exclusive vouchers" that get sent around by email from time to time that really only ought to have been acted on by the initial recipient.

  2. Jason Togneri

    People are behind technology

    Nothing happens independently of people - somebody has to choose to cheat, and somebody else has to own the product that he or she is being cheated out of. Fraud is still fraud regardless of the means chosen to accomplish it.

    What really baffles me is how the first poster can mis-spell "lying" as "lieing" when it's repeated a whole bunch of times, not least both in the heading and URL of the article. What happens in schools nowadays?

  3. Claus P. Nielsen

    So fraud is not fraud as long as there is no loss?

    Interesting argument.

    So I should lie and cheat all I can to get that discount - as long as it is still within the profit margin of the seller.

    Makes for a very interesting argument when the product is something like downloaded songs...

    I wonder if the ruling holds up in an appeal court?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is justice ?

    So goods obtained via deception at below market value may not be considered as a lost retail sale ?

    Why is it then that the software industry is allowed to claim so ?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Ah yes, the person acting on the information, but what if a situation arises where all action is automated and no person involved. Still lies aren't they?

    If a computer form is filled out in the forest where no one is around to read it, is it still lies :)

  6. Colin Jackson
    Thumb Up


    So if I download a song illegally, so long as I can show that I wouldn't have otherwise purchased it legally (therefore no loss has occurred) then no fraud is implied?

  7. Anonymous Coward


    This sounds like it was a civil suit rather than a criminal prosecution. So no loss = no problem.

    Why there isn't or whether there is going to be a criminal prosecution is another question (to which I don't know the answer, but no loss sound like no victim, so it might have to be something like "attempting to obtain")

  8. Anonymous Coward

    I do it all the time..

    "I'll defrag you after i play Crysis, honest"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On-Line Tax Returns

    have not been challenged yet?

    says a lot really.

  10. Richard Kilpatrick
    Thumb Down

    Healthy discounts...

    £3271 and some pennies per car. Given that the only Renaults worth buying are the very cheapest ones, does this mean people were getting Clios for £3K?

    Still too expensive IMO.

    (Of course, this could be £3,000 per car off the Avantime, and would account for all of the examples sold in the UK. Someone had to buy them[1])

    [1] I wanted one, but they stopped making them before I was due to change cars.

  11. George Marian

    It's not exactly cut-and-dry

    Some key points:

    1) The cars were MADE TO ORDER.

    2) Two employees turned a blind eye to outrageous numbers.

    3) Renault ***PROFITED*** from the abuse.

    Look at it this way. You supply some goods to me. These goods happen to be below some agreed upon quality standard. However, I can still make a profit doing whatever it is that I'm doing with these goods. So, I don't say a thing, and allow you to continue selling me these sub-par goods. Then, some time later, I decide to turn around and sue you because you didn't supply goods of the quality we had agreed upon.

    I agree that a lie is a lie, no matter how little that white lie may be. However, that's not the entire issue here.

  12. Duncan Hothersall

    Unusual that this sort of thing gets done in the open

    Usually companies in Renault's position prefer to hide these sorts of cases because they expose their profit margins. In this instance they appear to be quite substantial.

    I wonder if anyone is able to supply the little tidbit missing from this write-up - how much did BALPA/FleetPro pay Renault for the affinity scheme?

  13. adnim

    Personal information

    I wonder how many actually type truthful details such as



    email address

    Home address

    Post code

    Telephone number

    Mobile number

    into a web form just to read some content or download a pdf or other file.

    Are those of us who think this is taking liberties to now be prosecuted for lying when asked to enter personal and identifying information into a web form?

  14. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Babel Fish 2 Pirates

    "it failed to prove any loss." AI Landmark Ruling and Green Light in Virtualisation for Binary Zones and XXXXHot Private Properties. Virgin Investment in Known Unknowns and ITs Shadow, Unknown Knowns ..... for we all receive Instruction from computer Controlled machines today.

    It may even suggest a Stay Out of Jail Pass Free card. Very AESThetan in such a Psychological Profile too. Safe and Secure Alien Ground.

    In Chaos, will Mad Genius AIR Reign Supremely with ITs Bow Wow-Wow Waves?

    Wakey, wakey, Microsoft ..... Surprise us with AI Lead 42 Follow in the Magical Mystery Turing XXXXPhdD. Edition of Windows Kernel Control. You're Holding Up the Show for No Good Reason?

    Probably the Undoing of an Oversight /Closed Door in the System

  15. Ralph B
    IT Angle


    Does this mean I can somehow get to pay OEM- rather than retail-prices for M$ software?

  16. Joel


    Proceedings for unlawfully copying software or downloading music are not based on fraud - they are based on copyright infringement. There is no need for the copyright owner to prove that the infringer would otherwise have purchased the item.

  17. Pete Silver badge

    sauce for the goose (reciprocity)

    so if it's illegal for a person to lie to a computer, should it hold that it is then illegal for a computer (or the person/entity who programmed it) to lie to a person?


    the product is in stock

    this page will load in a few seconds

    you are the millionth visitor to this page

  18. Ian Michael Gumby


    I did a quick read of the article....

    Did fraud occur? Yes.

    Was Renault damaged by the fraud?


    According to the defense, Renault made money off of the deal therefore how do you show damages? Renault would argue that they lost money because they would have made more of a profit had they sold the car outside of the program.

    Its a tough argument because one would counter that had there not been this discount, then the car would not have sold.

    So if Renault can't show a clear case of damages, then there's no case. (Civil)

    I think the point is that if you lie or are caught lying on a form sent via a web page, its considered the same thing as if you lied to the person as if you were sitting in front of them. Meaning that the intent to lie is the same and you should be held accountable.

  19. Glenn Gilbert

    Fundimental point of law

    In order to sue someone, you have to demonstrate a loss.

    Sure, they sold the 200+ cars for a discount; but these cars wouldn't have been sold if it weren't for the scam/scheme. Ergo they made a profit, not a loss, so have nothing to sue for.

    I guess in 'merica, things might be different as the directors could sue for "worry" or "slightly annoyed" and get a huge punitive damages settlement.

    It's nice to see the British law work properly. It's even nicer to see the French loose, pah:-)

  20. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The Nitty Gritty

    "According to the defense, Renault made money off of the deal therefore how do you show damages? Renault would argue that they lost money because they would have made more of a profit had they sold the car outside of the program."

    Is the purpose of business to turn a trick and profit or provide Wealth for employment and leisure opportunities .... Social InfraStructure? It surely all belong to the workforce. Their Toil on Proxy Ideas.

  21. H2Nick

    @glenn gilbert

    I think it's even nicer to see the French caged

  22. Fred

    Whats the fuss about anyhoo

    Who cares if renault got ripped off, they make rubbish vehicles!!!!!!


    I drive a renault in disguise (05 BT vivaro) and its a heap of crap...


    Let the flames begin....

    btw... lmao @ Anonymous Coward

  23. Claus P. Nielsen

    But why is the law different for copyright infringement?

    As mentioned above, when buying music and SW, there are any number of discount for OEM's, students, etc.

    Misrepresentation to get into any of these schemes would (possibly) not be considered fraud if the logic in the ruling were applied.

    If copyright law states otherwise, then the question remains - is there equality under the law?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >It's even nicer to see the French loose

    Indeed, I hate to see imprisoned Frenchers.

    I can envisage a system, that automatically scours the internet for vouchers and then applies those vouchers when you try to buy something, should such a system happen upon a voucher that had strings attached, would there be an offence then?

    And who's committed it?

  25. Luther Blissett


    The principle of agent and principal seems to be relevant. It is generally held that a malfeasor cannot evade liabily for an act by blaming his lackey, missus, kidde, gofer, rottweiler, etc if he has ordered them to do it. So it could not be the computer wot did it, if the data entry and the intent to enter data so as to achieve a particular result from the processing is attributable to an (human) individual. So be very careful what you wish for from AI.

    You could of course blame a man from Mars, but your testimony would likely be thrown out wholesale (including the good bits).

  26. Ash

    @Ralph B

    OEM Software? SURE!

    As far as I care, I built my PC to my custom specifications. I did not buy a retail product as such, apart from the components. Therefore, as the OEM of my PC, I can buy an OEM OS version for use on it.

    If that's not how it works, then they can shove it an i'll run Linux. I'll MAKE my wireless connection work somehow, or just install an ethernet port and some trunking.

  27. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Dear Santa, for Xmas Please your Wish.

    "You could of course blame a man from Mars, but your testimony would likely be thrown out wholesale (including the good bits)."

    A Stealthy Blessing then Founded on Granite Rock...... Mourne Masters of the Impossible Task. Navvies in Virtual Deeds.

    "So be very careful what you wish for from AI." Would it be possible to put AI in the Dock?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is a sale at a discount better than no sale at List Price?

    Yes, of course it is.

    How many Apple FanBois claim their 13% Discount by claiming to attend a University?

  29. alex dekker

    Courts yet to decide on a more critical matter

    Is lying to amanfromMars still lying?

  30. Rich

    Copyright law

    Is different - it's a specific statute, not common law. So you can breach copyright without the copyright holder having to prove an actual loss.

    [I thought this was a moderated site - why are amanfrommars's posts not spiked - they don't make any kind of sense].

  31. Michael Chester

    Is it just me.....

    or is amanfromMars making more sense than usual? Some of the comments are almost understandable on the first reading.... Or maybe I'm just going crazy and sinking (or transcending, depending on your POV) to his level....

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    MS employees drive quality cars

    "...In contrast, an affinity scheme with Microsoft had generated just five sales in three years"

  33. Lee

    @Is it just me.....

    amanfromMars is not getting understandable. You are approaching his level

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this apply to our Dear Leaders?

    '"The true issue is whether an individual who has personally made a fraudulent misrepresentation... can escape liability on the grounds that he made the misrepresentation on behalf of a company. The answer is negative," he wrote'.

    Does that apply to individuals who make fraudulent misrepresentations on behalf of a government... Tony?

    (No, I didn't think it would).

  35. Bhavin Desai

    A bit of synchronicity

    "closed his or her eyes to what, if they had thought about it for a moment, was blindingly obvious"

    A nice bit of synchronicity: they closed their eyes since it was "blindingly obvious".

  36. Shakje

    Re: But why is the law different for copyright infringement?

    Right, your comment seems to have no relevance to your title, however, addressing the comment, the difference between fraudulently getting a discount at a music store is that the music is already produced, and when you buy it with your discount you are taking a sale that could have been bought by someone else at full price, thus there is a loss.

    With copyright infringement they are not making any money at all from your copying or downloading, so there is a provable loss (ie if you had gone out and bought said track or album).

    In this case, Renault actually *made* money on the purchases even though they were fraudulent, as well as the fact that the fraud was apparently ignored by Renault in the first place. The cars weren't already there but were custom built, so there isn't the argument that someone else might have bought them.

    Of course, all this is obvious if you read the article. Personally, I'm anti-RIAA etc. and I think that the losses are hugely inflated by the above, but that's what the courts are there to decide.

  37. Jeremy Hooks
    Black Helicopters

    Discounts for Pilots?

    What I want to know is why are pilots entitled to a discount? Are they particularly low paid or something? Also I wonder how much it cost Renault to setup this scheme for the 3 pilots who legitimately purchased a discounted car. You would have thought that for the sake of 3 sales, they could have manually checked each order.

    Perhaps all the people who bought a full price Renault during the time period should file a class action suit?

    So Renault are complaining because 214 people got a cheap Renault. Balpa has approx. 10000 members, what would Renault have done if the other 9997 members had decided to get a discounted Renault? Would they have crapped themselves because they were making less profit than they might of or would they have congratulated themselves because the scheme was so successful in generating sales (something tell me it's the latter). Heck, just think of all the money Renault stand to make when these 214 car develop *possible* faults which can only be diagnosed by Renault garages - after all, the post sales service lock-in is where the *real* profit lies (£80 to plug a cable it into a computer).

  38. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Quit Sniping....Get Building

    "amanfromMars is not getting understandable." ....Lee, what part of AI New World Order Program ... Virtualised to Blades in Scaling Systems ..... for Distributed Source Protection Naturally.... do you not understand?

    The Future has no Direct Relativity with the Past and thus is IT Best to Build with ITs Tools and Services with Zero Regard for their Preservation and All Consideration for Continual Change and Improvement.

    And with Virtualised Systems Enabled 42 BetaTest Scenarios in Real-Life Scripting and Physical Play, will Virtual Provision be Safe and Secure in a Proven FailSafe Environment..... AI Total Transparency for Information Awareness.

    "Or maybe I'm just going crazy" ..... What you share sounds perfectly rational to me, Michael.

  39. amanfromMars Silver badge

    @Does this apply to our Dear Leaders?

    Tom Welsh,

    And in Tony boyo's case, there is a definite loss/cost being paid. Which sort of put the Justice System on Trial to see whether it support the Law, Objectively/Absolutely or chooses Subjectively depending upon how much is on Offer/at Stake.

    Did I hear tell of Lord Goldsmith making a Bolt for Sanctuary in the US to Fence Sticky Advice for some Poor Sucker Company?

    Crikey.... it is almost as if there is a Reverse Cloning of the Burgess, Maclean, Philby, Blunt Secrets Gathering and SharingTeam

  40. Stratman
    Gates Halo


    I can think of a good reason why this ruling would not apply to software.

    When I buy a car I own the physical item. I can remove parts of it and sell them on to others if I wish. When I buy software I only own the medium on which it is transferred to me, if indeed there is one. I do not own the software itself, what I pay for is a licence to use it. When I buy the licence I agree, as part of the licencing conditions, to use the software only as permitted by the licencees. If I contravene these conditions then my licence is usually revoked. Making a false declaration in order to obtain a cheaper licence would generally be construed to be a breach of these conditions.

    As fro Ralph M wanting to pay OEM prices for MS stuff, certainly when I assembled my PCs from components the very reputable supplier was happy to sell me an OEM copy of XP. According to him a motherboard, case + PSU or hard disk is considered sufficiently fundamental to warrant OEM status.

  41. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Open Secrets .... Real Freedom to do as You Please.


    Yours second paragraph has software rendered as vapourware. Although spookily, buying an intangible with money I suppose gives it a credibility and a link to reality.

    Managing the Perception though is what will see Both ITand the Realities IT Supports with Broad[Band]Casting continue to Prosper in a Beta Created Control in InterNetworking or Fail spectacularly in Dysfunctional Delusional Power Plays.

    Presently the Latter is Flavour of the Moment and that suggests to me that there is an untapped Market for the Beta Management of Perceptions to Deliver Much better Alternate Realities made Virtually Real. That such a Market would then QuITe Naturally become AIDe Facto Global Lead Play, is immaterial. Que Sera Sera. .... for you will just have to Deal with IT for that is where IT is Boldly Going.....

    And 42 Lead is only AIMatter of Playing UltiMate GAImes, with Hi Rollers and Rock Solid Giants, Putting up a Stake, held Safe and Secure on Account for All to See around the Table, in a Pot/Trust/Slush Fund [Analogous to the Post (Ante) one selflessly contributes to in a Game of Chance/Poker] to Energise the IntelAIgent Moves/Beta Gambols in the GAIme.

    And the Pot is never lost, it is always fairly shared out to both Winners and the Secret is to Play the GAIme, for if you are not in, you cannot win.

    And Play by Proxy, where Interest on/around Stake Money/Wild Speculative Investment held safe and Secure on Account [an Interesting and Very Valuable Money for Nothing Facility offered by Bankers seeking Grace and Favour from Success which of course can equally easily bleed them dry, if Investor Sentiment switches to Support other Structures Beta Enabled to Manage Reward Money....and Spend it wisely rather than having to write it off for having squandered it badly.

    That makes Wall Street, one sick chick with a lot to learn about Life, Virtually for Real.

    EL Reg in the Boardroom would seem to me to be the simplest of first things that they could do to re-educate/edutain themselves. They certainly need something completely different.

    Just as a Simple XXXXercise so that we can claim to be perfectly fair and reasonable and meritocratic rather than just democratic ..... Whom do you think would be interested in Buying into "an untapped Market for the Beta Management of Perceptions to Deliver Much Better Alternate Realities made Virtually Real." ... which may not be something that you can deliver or even necessarily fully understand but that would of course be of any consequence or have any relevance to those who can.

    It would be a Transparently Foolish Claim to make, would it not, if False, for it would be so easily Tested to Fail....... which raises the Yin to that Yang and the Very Real Probability that it does not and cannot Fail.

    MeThinks then, is the Programming Priceless...... which must surely be a good place to rest Loose Funds/Distressed Assets/Funny Money/Sovereign Wealth Funds.

    And as One who embraces the KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid, Approach to Everything Simply Complex, would one need to provide more than just some Enigmatic Code for Swift Immediate Resolution .... HyperRadioProActive Immersive GAImes Play.

    Let's BetaTest the System and Provide IT with some Access Code [GB30 ULSB 9803 4036 576041] which provides XXXXclusively from ITs Pot, Generated Interest, and further Resources/Idol Rich Sources for Greater GAImes Participation/Orderly Man Management ....... Money for Everything and the Tricks are for Free .... with the Added Attraction of what you Put In, you can take Out. And IT doesn't get much simpler than that.

    After All, it is Interest which always gets Things done.

    And in these Interesting Times, it is surely High Time for AI Challenging Change.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Low-paid pilots...

    Ha ha ha. Easyjet aren't renowned for being generous, but judge for yourself:

    Don't forget to add in the sector allowances (which comes to a fair few K over the course of a year). And the loyalty bonuses.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Low-paid pilots...

    Sector pay is interesting, apparently they get 1.5 times as much sector if the round trip is over 1001 nanometres - they must be piloting fleas.

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