All of us who surf the internet regularly have, at some time, signed up with a website for some kind of service. It could be a social networking site, an informational site or blog or almost any kind of site where we are required to register in order to obtain the service or information. Then again we may be purchasing something online and registering with the company in order to obtain the goods we want. In nearly all cases we meet up with the “Terms Of Service” section on the website which we have to acknowledge that we have read and understood, and sign at the bottom, stating that we agree to the TOS as it is commonly known.
This is so universal that most people simply ignore the TOS and scroll rapidly to the bottom to append their signature indicating that they agree. In the majority of cases this works out just fine since this is a pretty standard legal agreement. However simply agreeing without reading carefully may lead to big surprises when you least expect them. You may have inadvertently agreed that your personal information can be sold to other companies or individuals. As a result you may receive a lot of spam emails. You may even have agreed to pay monthly fees for a service or to buy merchandise which you did not want.
When you put your electronic signature on the TOS document you have signed a legal agreement which allows the company to do whatever is specified in the document. There is little point in protesting that “nobody reads TOS” when you have signed that you have read, understood and agreed to the contents. You have no legitimate grounds to complain unfortunately and you are responsible for complying with everything that you have agreed to.
Generally the Terms Of Service are designed to protect the company from illegal or inappropriate acts on the part of the end user. The illegal or inappropriate usage will vary widely depending on the purpose of the website. Posting of copyright materials is one example of an act which would be illegal. Use of the website for the purpose of spamming may not be illegal, but would be considered inappropriate and is therefore banned. There are a wide variety of such acts which are not allowed under the TOS of many websites. It is of course up to the consumer to actually read and understand the terms of service, which they are agreeing to. If this is not done there is no possible legitimate complaint when the company simply acts in the way which you agreed to.
Needless to say there are some unscrupulous businesses which will try to take advantage of this blind spot in the consumer’s armor. This is where trouble may arise when the consumer finds himself billed for materials he did not want or receiving tons of unwanted email which he had unwittingly agreed to receive. The moral here very plainly is that the Terms Of Service is not something which should be quickly scrolled through without reading, and understanding, what you are agreeing to. As is always the case with legal documents it is an excellent idea to read the fine print before signing any TOS agreement.