Federal District Court Enforces Arbitration Clause Included in Clickwrap Terms Reply

E-Commerce News provided by BuckleySandler LLP for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

April 7, 2012

On March 26, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois required arbitration of a dispute regarding alleged overcharging by an Internet service provider (ISP) because the consumer had agreed to an arbitration provision included in the ISP’s clickwrap terms of service. Sherman v. AT&T Inc., No. 11-C-5857, 2012 WL 1021823 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 26, 2012). The court held that the plaintiff’s assent to the terms during the online activation process constituted acceptance of those terms, regardless of when he believed the contract was formed. To activate his Internet service, the plaintiff was required to confirm through an online process that he had read and agreed to the ISP’s terms of service. The activation and confirmation page included a link to the terms of service, which included an agreement to arbitrate all disputes. The plaintiff argued (i) that his contract with the ISP was formed during a phone call with an ISP customer service agent pursuant to which he ordered the service, prior to the online activation process, and therefore the terms of service do not apply, and (ii) the terms were not expressly incorporated into the broader conditions of his contract and were procedurally unconscionable. The district court granted the ISP’s motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s allegation (made on behalf of a putative class) that the ISP systematically overcharged consumers for residential Internet service by advertising promotional plans while actually charging standard rates. The court reasoned that vendors may enclose the full legal terms with their products rather than reciting them prior to purchase, for practical purposes, even if the full terms are not delivered until after the consumer’s order and payment. The court also held that the terms were not procedurally unconscionable, as they were not difficult to find, read or understand, and the plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to review the terms prior to activation.

Federal Court Holds Combination of Clickwrap Agreement and 30-Day Right to Cancel Letter Made Arbitration Clause Clear to User Reply

E-Commerce News provided by BuckleySandler LLP for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

March 6, 2012

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado held that a clickwrap agreement combined with a follow up thirty-day right to cancel letter presented users with an arbitration clause in a reasonably conspicuous manner. Grosvenor v. Qwest Corp. , No. 09-02848, 2012 WL 602655 (D. Colo. Feb. 23, 2012). The plaintiff brought suit against his internet service provider (ISP), Qwest Corporation, claiming that Qwest violated a lifetime price guarantee for the service. Qwest moved to compel arbitration. The court held that although the terms were not presented in the clearest manner, they were sufficiently conspicuous and provided an opportunity for a reasonable user to review them. The installation software provided to the plaintiff specifically mentioned the existence of an arbitration clause, directed the plaintiff to the ISP’s website to review the agreement, and required that the plaintiff accept the terms before installing the software. The court raised concerns that once directed to the ISP website to review the arbitration terms, the plaintiff was required to click through two pages to find the terms. Despite this, the court stated that, as a matter of law, the multiple clicks requirement does not prevent contractual formation. Moreover, a follow up “Welcome Letter” sent to the plaintiff by the ISP again identified the arbitration clause and provided plaintiff with an opportunity to cancel the service within thirty days. The court decline to determine whether either the clickwrap agreement or the letter would be sufficient on their own, but together they rendered the contractual terms sufficiently clear for a reasonable user. In the end, the court found the arbitration agreement unenforceable on other grounds.