Why tech companies aren’t your friend: Lessons from Roku

Associated media – Related media

Changes to the product software interface and data collection practices may occur at any time. In extreme examples, a device may stop working. In 2020, for example, Amazon discontinued Echo Look, a camera that helped people organize their wardrobes. It issued a promotional credit to allow owners to purchase a different Amazon gadget that lacks similar features.

The less extreme and more common situation is when companies stop supporting older products because they need to sell new gadgets. Apple’s original Apple Watch from 2015, for example, no longer receives software updates and now barely works.

This problem isn’t new but has become even more problematic as most of our devices rely on apps and Internet connections, said Nathan Proctor, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization. With computers, consumers could modify their machines by installing a different operating system. But with many other types of electronic devices with locked software systems, from streaming devices to e-book readers, such changes are typically not possible.

“When you get to the heart of the matter, do you still own it?” He said.

Simply put, Roku’s terms of service have long required that customers agree to resolve any legal disputes through a private forum, the process known as mandatory arbitration, which can prevent consumers who share the same complaints from banding together to file lawsuits . The updated terms added language protecting the company from so-called mass arbitrations, in which lawyers could file hundreds of thousands of individual arbitration claims, a tactic to thwart arbitration clauses.

Mandatory arbitration clauses have become an industry standard. Terms of service for companies including Sony PlayStation, Vizio and Hulu include similar language about arbitration, and those companies also require consumers to send a letter opting out of those terms.

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