- Hubbert v. Dell Corp., 2005 WL 1968774 (Ill. App. Ct. 2005) (court upheld arbitration clause in Dell’s for cause regarding alleged false claims made by Dell to online purchasers of the computers. Court found different colored hyperlinks on each page like a multipage contract).
- Hines v. Overstock.com, Inc., 668 F. Supp.2d 366 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (both arbitration and forum selection clause invalid due to no actual or constructive notice)
- Van Tassell v. United Mktg. Group, LLC, 795 F. Supp. 2d 770 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (holding arbitration provision was unenforceable where it was included website’s conditions of use but difficult to find, because users had to scroll all the way down home page, click on Customer Service link, then scroll down and click another link to find it).
- Friedman v. Guthy-Renker, LLC, 2015 US Dist LEXIS 24307 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 27, 2015) (where two plaintiffs clicked on checkbox that only referenced credit card terms prior to purchase, arbitration not binding; for plaintiff who clicked on checkbox which had a link to the terms the arbitration provision was binding)
In In re Facebook Biometric Information Privacy Litigation, 185 F. Supp. 3d 1155, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60046, (N.D. Cal. 2016):
- A class action against Facebook was filed pursuant to the Illinois Biometric Informration Privacy Act (BIPA). Parties agreed to transfer case to N.D. California, but wanted Illinois law (and not CA law) to apply.
- Plaintiff’s alleged that facial and other recognition used by Facebook violated BIPA
- There were three plaintiffs at issue and court reviewed the sign up procedure for each (2005, 2008 and 2009).
- When Facebook updated its Terms it emailed a notice to all user’s email addresses and the next time each user logged on, they saw “jewel” notification in their personal newsfeed alerting to the change in such documents but no affirmative action was required by each user).BUT said the general and individualized notice was enough, that the agreement was effective, but that in the situation it would not apply CA law.
- The Court said that the notice provided by Facebook was enough to have a binding choice of law provision (seemed to like the “personalized” nature of the news feed notice).
- But the Court then still chose to apply IL law as opposed to CA.
In Jerez v. JD Closeouts, LLC, No. CV-024727-11, 2012 WL 934390 (N.Y. Dist. Ct. 2012):
–The court held that a terms of sale provision found on the “About” page of the website was not enough to enforce the forum selection clause.
- Plaintiff ordered products ($6,000 worth of tube socks) over the Internet, and sued claiming there were defects.
- Seller moved to dismiss claiming the forum selection clause required the dispute be heard in a Florida state court, and Plaintiff claimed he never saw clause.
–Court found the clause was not reasonably communicated where it was “buried” and “submerged” on the website, and could only be found by clicking on an “inconspicuous” link to the company’s About Us page. Seller’s attempt to have the terms incorporated by reference in a printed contract and letter agreement were not enough for the court.
- Court relied on Specht and Carnival Cruise Lines.
–Similar holding in Cvent, Inc. v. Eventbrite, Inc., 739 F. Supp. 2d 927 (E.D. Va. 2010).
In Ticketmaster Corp. v. Tickets.com, Inc., 2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 6483 (C.D. CA., March 7, 2003):
–Relying on Register.com and Pollstar, the court held that a contract can be formed by use of a website, provided the user, at the time of use, has knowledge of the site’s terms and conditions that provide that such use constitutes an agreement to be bound.
- Court relied on “cruise ship” case law precedent. It analogized interior web pages to the back of a cruise ship ticket’s venue clause, where user has actual or presumptive knowledge.
–Court found that Tickets.com used Ticketmaster’s site with full knowledge of the terms, and upheld such terms in the breach of contract action.
In Pollstar v. Gigmania, Ltd., 170 F. Supp. 2d 974 (E.D. CA 2000):
–Pollstar kept track of concert information on its website, which any user could download by accepting the terms of Pollstar’s license.
»License prohibited commercial use of information.
»License was not on Pollstar’s homepage, but on different page of its site.
»Visitor is alerted to existence of Pollstar’s license only by reason of a small grey print on grey background (with a link to terms, but other links on homepage were blue)
–Gigmania downloaded information from Pollstar’s site and used it on its own site for commercial purposes. Pollstar sued to enforce terms.
–The court refused to enforce the terms of the license agreement because it found that the link to the license was hard to read based on the way it was presented.
- Notably, the court did not rule that the license agreement was unenforceable, only that the website did not give users adequate notice of it.
Below is a brief overview of Register.com v. Verio, Inc., 356 F.3d 393 (2d Cir. 2004):
–VERIO claimed there was no contract as it never agreed to the terms, and in any event any user of the WHOIS site could receive the information before seeing the terms.
- The court said that this argument may only have worked if Verio used the WHOIS database once, but Verio did it every day with full knowledge of the terms.
Here is a brief summary of the case In re Zappos.com, Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, 893 F.Supp. 2d 1058 (Dist. Ct. Nevada 2012):
–Users sued in multiple forums for damages due to a security breach.
–Zappos had a hyperlink on each page of its website to the terms but it was hard to see, being the same size and color as other insignificant links, and located ¾ of the way down the page. The website never prompted or directed a user to the terms even when purchasing a product or opening an account.
–Court concluded that the plaintiffs may have never seen the terms, so in no way could be deemed to have actually or constructively agreed to them. No assent, no contract.
- Sidenote: The Court also held the arbitration provision was an illusory contract (and therefore not enforceable) because Zappos was able to amend the Terms as it saw fit at any time. See Grosvenor v. Qwest Corp., 854 F. Supp. 2d 1021 (D. Colo. 2012) for this same holding.
- Starke v. Gilt Groupe, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58006 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (arbitration provision in clickwrap license, which had a link to the text of the license, was upheld, and found not to be unconscionable).
- Motise v. America Online Inc., 346 F. Supp 2d 563 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (user that signed on with another user’s id and password still bound, as sub-licensee, of the terms including forum selection clause).
- Hoffman v. Supplements Togo Management, LLC 18 A3d 210 (N. J. App. Div. 2011) (found forum selection clause unenforceable due “the manifestly unfair manner in which defendant’s website was structured” and court seemed to imply that it believed the website owner was intentionally hiding the terms).
- Caspi v. Microsoft Network, LLC, 323 NJ Super 118 (N.J. App. Div. 1999) (upheld forum selection clause where users had to click on scrollable window and click “I agree” or “I don’t agree.”)
- Mortgage Plus, Inc. v. DocMagic, Inc., 2004 WL 2331918, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20145 (D. Kan. 2004) (clickwrap agreement upheld)
- Taxes of P.R., Inc. v. TaxWorks, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37765 (D.P.R. 2014) (upheld forum selection clause in clearly stated clickwrap agreement, following ProCD precedent).
In Specht v. Netscape Communications Corp., 306 F.3d 17 (2nd Cir. 2002), Users who downloaded certain software programs provided by Netscape filed a class action in federal court. Netscape then moved for arbitration which was required as per the download terms. There were, however, multiple ways to download the Netscape programs, some of which required an affirmative assent and some of which did not require any assent to the terms of the license (case is about the latter).
The 2nd Circuit found that users could download and use the software without having to view the full terms of the contractual arrangement including the arbitration clause. The Court stated that a reasonably prudent consumer would not assent to contractual terms that were so inconspicuous that they could use the product while totally overlooking them. You had to scroll down and click on the terms to see them.
The Court said what is needed is “clarity and conspicuousness” to ensure the user is cognizant of the terms of the license (emphasis mine). This is the phrase to keep in mind when clients are creating browsewrap and clickwrap agreements to bind users online.
Aside: Court seemed concerned that the Internet gives companies too many opportunities to exploit unsuspecting users. Simple rule is that if the user is not reasonably alerted to the contractual terms, she cannot assent to them.
In Fteja v. Facebook 2012 WL 183896 (SDNY 2012), the Southern District of New York held that the forum selection clause in Facebook’s terms of service was enforceable against a site user. The user sued Facebook in New York for terminating his account. He essentially claimed he was emotionally distraught over being kicked off of the site. Facebook made a motion to remove the case to California pursuant to the forum selection clause in its Terms of Service.
Court found the Terms of Service was a hybrid clickwrap/browsewrap stating that it was “somewhat like a browsewrap agreement in that the terms are only visible via a hyperlink, but also somewhat like a clickwrap agreement in that the user must do something else — click ‘Sign Up’ — to assent to the hyperlinked terms. Yet, unlike some clickwrap agreements, the user can click to assent whether or not the user has been presented with the terms.” Id. at 838.
I think it was a clickwrap agreement, and this is an example of a court treating a clickwrap agreement as a browsewrap agreement, a trend which has leaked into other cases. As browsewrap agreements require a little bit more as far as assent from the user this trend is important to note.
The Terms of Service required that to create an account each user had to click on a “Sign Up” button and agree to the following “By clicking Sign Up, you are indicating that you have read and agree to the Terms of Service” where the words Terms of Service were a hyperlink to another page which contained the Terms of Service (which you did not have to view to sign up).
The Court held that the forum selection clause was enforceable against the user, and that failure of a user to read the terms does not let them avoid the agreement (user was savy enough to know how hyperlinks work). Court analogized to the cruise ship cases (below) where ticket holders were deemed to have had actual or constructive knowledge of the terms on the back of the ticket regarding forum selection.
See Effron v. Sun Line Cruises, 67 F.3d 7 (2d Cir. N.Y. 1995) (upheld forum selection clause requiring all suits be brought in Greece, where NY resident bought ticket in FL, and was injured in cruise off of Brazil).
See Also Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991) (held that United States federal courts will enforce forum selection clauses so long as the clause is not unreasonably burdensome to the party seeking to escape it. There, the contract was printed on the back of the ticket. The customer bought the ticket in WA, the ticket’s forum selection said claims would be heard exclusively in FL. The customer boarded in CA, and was injured off Mexico. The court held the clause enforceable.).