back to article Wi-Fi firm Purple sneaks 'community service' clause into its T&Cs

For a regulation designed to safeguard data processing, the forthcoming GDPR has already generated a surfeit of info. Somewhere in Europe sits a growing compliance mountain. How then do companies get their messages to stand out amid this deluge of press releases? The crazy kids at Wi-Fi biz Purple have the answer: be zany! In …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Devil

    I do community service

    By not letting my sanity snap.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    I am a nerd, I read T&Cs before clicking 'agree'

    I have not taken some 'services' because I did not like the T&Cs.

    Some, unfortunately, one does not have the choice - like some government sites where the T&Cs are complete cobblers.

    The clause that I hate the most is the one that says ''we may change these T&Cs at any time, you agree to check for updates'' - how often am I expected to read umpteen pages of drivel with no indication of if (and where) changes have been made?

    These clauses should be outlawed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I am a nerd, I read T&Cs before clicking 'agree'

      "These clauses should be outlawed."

      I suspect they wouldn't stand up in court- though that, of course, isn't the same thing as being prohibited from including unenforceable conditions that might still have the desired effect of intimidating customers.

      As for government sites, if you're effectively forced to use them- and hence accept the conditions- I wonder how *that* would hold up in court?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am a nerd, I read T&Cs before clicking 'agree'

        IIRC it does not stand up in court, as the above post says. Some banking, investment and pension companies have found this out when trying to use small print of varying types to change policies on customers.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I am a nerd, I read T&Cs before clicking 'agree'

        on the government sites, I would be surprised if they didn't try to claim Crown immunity, or just have already taken the precaution of getting a ministerial order to shield them from the rules the rest of us have to follow.

  3. Whitter
    Meh

    T&Cs

    All it shows is that T&Cs as currently implemented are a waste of time - the can't be enforced as they were never read.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Purple

    Who?

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Purple

      Personally I wouldn't touch them with a barge pole. My local coffee shop across the road uses Purple, and they (Purple, coffee shop people wouldn't know how to) intercept everything and blatantly rewrite search results to Purple redirector links. It's one of the few places where I make sure my WiFi is off and stick to 4G, and I'm always surprised by the number of people working there, handling what looks like corporate stuff, when the pub down the road has a truly open WiFi. (I know it's not intercepting anything, the landlord gets me to help with it.)

      1. Morley Mor

        Re: Purple

        You do realise there is nothing Purple can do to rewrite search results? Well obviously you don't pal but there you go

  5. Ragarath

    Form Gov.UK

    “It’s written and signed so it’s legal”

    A contract term and notice has to be fair to be legally binding on your customer. If it isn’t, they can challenge it – including in court if necessary. Enforcers (such as the CMA and Trading Standards) can also bring cases to stop you using it.

    So unfair terms are not enforceable if you want to challenge them. AKA call trading standards.

    Source: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/unfair-terms-explained-for-businesses-full-guide#common-myths-about-contract-terms

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Form Gov.UK

      So unfair terms are not enforceable if you want to challenge them. AKA call trading standards.

      Good luck with that. If you 'phone them these days you are generally routed to Citizens Advice. Neither of these have much money and tend to ignore what you tell them.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: Form Gov.UK

        Then the courts are available.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Vic

            Re: Form Gov.UK

            and if the complaint you are trying to bring is against someone who sticks their £300/hour barrister on you, who charges for anything over five mins (rounded up to the nearest hour, of course) including reading the complaint?

            If you've got a legitimate complaint, you do it anyway. Anything else is just giving in to the bullies.

            This happened to me when I took the Royal Mail to court. It was a trifling expense - but one I had incurred because of their uselessness. So I launched Small Claims proceedings. They sent me - Special Delivery - an *inch* of A4, covered in legalese and threats, including a breakdown of their costs, which they would endeavour to recover[1] from me should I persist.

            I did persist. They sent me a cheque. The legalese was all bluster. That's how these organisations work; they expect you to fold as soon as they appear to bring out the heavy guns.

            Vic.

            [1] You *can* recover costs from Small Claims proceedings under certain circumstances, but it is far from guaranteed; I have only once been awarded costs, and the other side never actually paid them.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Form Gov.UK

        Contacting Trading Standards and being routed to CAB about an issue seems to lead to a dead end before anything useful can happen. At a very minimum you have to have been harmed, personally, before they'll even listen. Proactive action, along the lines of "I've spotted an issue that you should be aware of.." (e.g. a local shop selling fake goods) goes nowhere. Until there's a victim. If even then.

  6. Ian Michael Gumby
    Boffin

    Nothing new here.

    We all know the dangers of shrink wrap contracts ... including unenforceable clauses.

    This was parodied by South Park.

    But what is interesting is the whole GDPR thing.

    Want to be compliant?

    Just say no to selling customer data. Or sharing data with your 'partners' who aren't really 'partners' but other companies that are paying you for the data.

    If you keep your data private, provide industry standards on securing your PII data... you will be compliant.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new here.

      IIRC, Purple provide WiFi in a lot of places, like shopping centres. The shopping centre and tenants would probably like a sneak at the data for things like targeted advertising and crowd flow tracking.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Nothing new here.

      "you will be compliant"

      Providing your business is resident in a jurisdiction where it's allowed to be compliant.

  7. Derichleau

    Organisations have a statutory obligation to process personal information fairly and in accordance with the rights of data subjects. No term in a standard form civil contract will likely negate these obligations.

    Bearing in mind that it's fairly easy now to file a claim in the small claims court under Section 13 of the DPA, organisations should ensure that their terms are compatible with the view of the Regulator. I say this because although organisations can argue their own subjective interpretation in court, they can be prosecuted if they don't accept the view of the Regulator, or challenge the Regulator's view. My bank was threatened with prosecution by the ICO's Regulatory Action Division when their barristers refused to accept the ICO's view of direct marketing.

    It's not about individuals... data controllers must process personal information fairly. Thus, if they disagree with the view of the Regulator, then they should seek advice from the ICO. How many of them do that? How many companies get their customer service staff to tell us that we're wrong and they're right?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    OK lets put them to the test.

    Go to sign up:

    https://purple.ai/free-license/

    Where the fuck are their terms and conditions (not the ones about the website)?

    No wonder people didn't read them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK lets put them to the test.

      At the bottom where they usually are.

      I agree with your sentiment, they are not highlighted and when you click through the very first thing it says is "by continuing to use this website you agree to ...."

      I think not sunshine, you cannot enforce a retrospective contract. By continuing to read the Terms and Conditions, I am agreeing to nothing, only reading your terms. If i then want to continue then maybe you have a point, but it is yet another site that using contracts / T&C to ignore basic law.... easier to wait for someone to call them out.

      I don't know who these people are but their "just like every other website" makes me think they are all marketing and no substance.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK lets put them to the test.

      They are on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK lets put them to the test.

        poor leopard :(

    3. Morley Mor

      Re: OK lets put them to the test.

      Just checked and when you actually sign up you get them

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: OK lets put them to the test.

        >Just checked and when you actually sign up you get them

        Then in the UK//EU they are automatically null and void!

        You need to be able to read and agree to the T&Cs BEFORE you commit to anything.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "all end users know they can control how their data is being used"

    Do they F. None of these shopping centre etc WiFi providers can be trusted, they slurp, map and sell on every step you take.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan

      Re: "all end users know they can control how their data is being used"

      Do they F. None of these shopping centre etc WiFi providers can be trusted, they slurp, map and sell on every step you take.

      And in one case (local pub) required you to sign in using your Farcebook/Tweeter login in order to access their free wifi..

      And yes, I know it's all OAUTH behind the scenes - but do you really want to hand a valid OAUTH token to an unknown vendor?

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So how is el Reg coping with GDRP for all the commentards data they have? Have you recently sneaked in anything untowards in your Ts & Cs?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Apparently it mentions that a random commentard has been made our alien overlord and should be feared - any idea who it could be?

  11. Duke Harrison

    I think you may be getting confused with website terms and the terms someone agrees to when they use the WiFi, which are 2 different things. It's an easy thing to do while you are wallowing in your faux outrage.

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "We have acted quickly to be the first Wi-Fi provider to be fully GDPR compliant."

    Ever heard of hubris?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste. But when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Hubris has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humour.

  13. Paul 195

    No-one has time to read all the T&Cs of everything they click on these days (all right, very few people, I see one keen Register reader has said he does). There's a real need for some packaged T&Cs with a standard set of terms, analogous to the different open source licenses (GPL, LGPL, Apache, MIT, etc). When you accept one of these licenses, you usually have a pretty good idea what you are agreeing too, because they are used a lot and you don't have to read them every single time. It can't be beyond the wit of man to do something similar with T&Cs. At the most, you might have a different definition paragraph for each ('blogs mobile data hereinafter known as "the provider")..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've also become a connoisseur of these "agreements" as well. It's interesting reading them and ticking off what they do not assert as well as what they do. However, the reason I started in the first place was financial. Back in the '90's, a firm put in a term that offered a cash reward. It went some time before anyone came forward to claim for it.

  14. vir

    Does anyone remember the PcPitstop "Special Consideration" clause from a few years back: "read this and we will send you money"? Not a bad article, either: http://techtalk.pcpitstop.com/2012/06/12/it-pays-to-read-license-agreements-7-years-later/

  15. Paul

    One of my email addresses started getting spam from Purple; the address fell into the hands of spammers when a forum was leaked, It was an unusual email address, totally non-guessable, and obviously associated with the product on the forum.

    Purple blamed their mail service provider (apc-lists.com), and they blamed Purple for acquiring the address list. It was all pretty iffy, and I never got to the bottom it.

  16. DontFeedTheTrolls
    Boffin

    "...users need to read terms when they sign up..."

    Then there must also be an obligation on the terms being clear and concise, something we rarely see. And I don't just mean clear and concise for a lawyer. If it's more than a few paragraphs in plain "crystal mark" English* then it isn't going to be understood, and probably not even read, and therefore should automatically be rejected by the courts. This is the general public we're talking about, not a lawyered up corporation.

    *I use English as that's the native language of the forum, but the concept applies equally to other languages.

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