CLEVELAND - It seems companies are always changing their user agreements and privacy policies. How often do you read the fine print? I often hit delete or file the letter away never to pick it up again. There’s one you should read, and read it quickly so you don’t throw your rights out the window. eBay recently changed its user agreement, and you have to act by Nov. 9 or you’ll be bound by the new terms.
Class action lawsuits cost companies big bucks, and often net very little for consumers. Companies are trying to put a stop to them by adding arbitration agreements to their policies. With most of these policies, you have no choice but to settle your dispute through arbitration.
eBay is changing its policy so any disputes will be decided by an arbitrator rather than a court of law. The decision is final and binding. The exception is small claims court if your issue qualifies. Most small claims cases are capped at $2,500 to $3,500, but it varies by location.
An eBay spokesman said this change to eBay and PayPal user agreements keeps the policies current with changing laws and business practices.
In essence, class action lawsuits are prohibited. eBay said arbitration is more informal than a courtroom. True. However, Public Citizen wants the arbitration clause removed adding that it disproportionately favors the company in disputes. Independent arbitrators are used, but many believe the consumer doesn’t have a shot with this type of dispute resolution.
To inform consumers about this policy change, Public Citizen launched a petition that more than 4600 people signed.
The bottom line – this is a move many companies are moving toward. At least, eBay is giving you a choice. You can opt out or reject the agreement to arbitrate. You need to send a written letter by November 9th. For new users, you have 30 days after the date you accept the User agreement for the first time. You should send a letter stating that you don’t agree to arbitrate and include your name, address, user ID, and email address associated with your eBay account. The letter must be postmarked no later than Nov. 9, 2012. Send it to the following address:
C/O National Registered Agents, Inc.
2778 W. Shady Bend Lane
Lehi, UT 84043
Public Citizen feels it’s strange to request an opt out letter by mail considering eBay is an online company.
“To put it charitably, eBay’s requirement that opt-outs be submitted through traditional mail raises questions about the sincerity of its commitment to permitting users to protect themselves,” Weissman said.
Public Citizen launched a petition to inform users about the terms and a form letter to help you opt out more easily. Make sure you send it certified mail so you have proof it was received just in case a dispute ever arises.
Download Public Citizen’s form letter: ebay-arbitration-opt-out-letter
An eBay spokesman responded to the criticism adding, “Consistent with the practices of many of the country’s leading consumer, technology and internet companies, eBay Inc. added an arbitration provision. This dispute resolution procedure encourages swift and reasonable resolution as opposed to litigation, which can be protracted, expensive and often dissatisfying to customers. We believe swift and reasonable resolution processes are in the best interests of our customers and our company. Users who do not prefer this approach have the ability to opt out of the arbitration provision and keep their account active."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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