"STOP PUTTING CLAUSES INTO YOUR CONTRACTS THAT SAY YOU CAN AMEND THE CONTRACT AT ANY TIME IN YOUR SOLE DISCRETION BY POSTING THE REVISED TERMS TO THE WEBSITE" . . .

by Lee Gesmer on June 11, 2009

… says Professor Eric Goldman, in his apologetically belated comments on Harris v. Blockbuster Inc., (N.D. Tex. April 15, 2009).  I discussed this case briefly in April, shortly after the decision was published.  To reprise, the court held that an arbitration clause in Blockbuster’s online t’s and c’s was unenforceable because Blockbuster was permitted to unilaterally amend the contract without notice.

Prof. Goldman’s take on it (in addition to the title of this post), is –

This language has a significant risk of killing the entire contract, which would strip away a lot of very important provisions that should be/need to be in the contract. So far Blockbuster has only lost its mandatory arbitration clause, but it’s possible other important risk management clauses (warranty disclaimer, liability limits, dollar caps, etc.) will similarly fall. If those clauses fail, let the plaintiff feasting begin!

Professor Goldman has commented on a Ninth Circuit case to similar effect, Douglas v. US District Court ex rel Talk America, (9th Cir. 2007).  After discussing that case (which is very similar to Blockbuster), he stated:

Although I don’t have any great practice-oriented recommendations based on this opinion, I do hope this opinion will help contribute to the demise of the “check back frequently for amendments” provisions in online user agreements. I’ve always considered those among the worst excesses of the dot com era.

Previous post:

Next post: