'Disgraceful': Messy ToS update allegedly locks Roku devices until users give up

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Roku customers are threatening to stop using or even throw away their low-priced TVs and streaming gear after the company appears to be locking out devices for people who don't comply with its recently updated terms of service (Terms of Service).

This month, Roku's users Support forums I suddenly reported a vision message When they turn on their Roku TV or streaming device, it reads: “We've made an important update: We've updated our dispute resolution terms. Select 'Agree' to agree to these updated terms and to continue enjoying our products and services. Press * to view these updated terms.” ” This is followed by a large button that says “I agree.” The pop-up window does not provide a way to disagree, and users are only able to use their devices if they agree.

Customers have left pages of complaints on the Roku forum. One user going by “rickstanford” said they were “angry!!!!” And I expressed Interested in sending the six reported Roku devices to the company because “I clearly don't own them despite spending hundreds of dollars on them.”

Another user through Formcustomer, which I think is aptly named, wrote:

So, you buy a product, and you use it. They want to change the terms that limit your rights, and basically shut down the device… if you don't accept their new terms. …I hope they get retribution here, because this is disgraceful.

Roku has further drawn the ire of customers who find it harder than necessary to disagree with its updated terms. Roku is willing to accept its terms with the push of a button, but to opt out, users have to jump through hoops that include finding that old book of stamps.

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To opt out of Roku's ToS update, which fundamentally changes “Conditions for resolving disputes“, users must send a letter to Roku's general counsel in California stating: “The name of each person opting out, the contact information for each person, the specific product models, software, or services used at issue, and the email address you used to set up your Roku account Your account (if you have an account), and a copy of your purchase receipt, if applicable.” Roku required all of this to opt out in its terms beforehand, too.

But the new update means that while users read this information, find a stamp, envelope and paper and get their letters delivered, they are unable to use products they have already paid for and used, in some cases for years, under “various dispute resolution terms.”

“I can't watch TV because I don't agree to the dispute resolution terms. Please help,” a user going by Campbell220 wrote on the Roku support forum.

Depending on the wording of the terms of service, users can technically choose to agree to the terms of service on their device and then write a letter explaining their desire to opt out. But signing up for an agreement to use a device only under terms you don't agree to is counterintuitive.

Even more pressing, Roku's terms of service state that users only have “within 30 days of being subject to” Roku's updated terms, which were on February 20, to opt out. Otherwise, you will be automatically enabled.

Archived Roku's ToS website logs seem to show that the new ToS has been online since at least August. But just this month users reported that their TVs were rendered useless unless they accepted the terms via an on-screen message. Roku declined to answer Ars Technica's questions about the changes, including why it didn't alert users about them in advance. But the official spokesperson shared a statement in which he said:

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Like many companies, Roku updates its terms of service from time to time. When we do, we take steps to ensure customers are informed of the change.

What changed, Rocco?

Customers criticize Roku for pushing too hard to accept ToS changes. The updates focus on Roku's dispute resolution terms, which prevent users from suing Roku. The Terms have long imposed a prescribed arbitration process to resolve disputes. The new Terms of Service have become more detailed, including “class arbitration” details. The biggest change was the introduction of a section called “Informal Dispute Resolution”. It states that except for a small number of described exceptions (which include intellectual property claims), users must make a “good faith effort” to negotiate with Roku, or vice versa, for at least 45 days before entering into arbitration.

Roku is also under pressure to use forced arbitration at all, which some say is possible It has benefits on one side. In a similar move in December, for example, 23andMe said users had 30 days to opt out of new dispute resolution terms, which included class arbitration rules (although the genetics company allows customers to opt out via email). . The changes came after 23andMe user data was stolen in a cyberattack. Large companies often use forced arbitration clauses to avoid a lawsuit by fed up customers.

Roku's forced arbitration rules aren't new but they still leave customers wondering about their streaming devices, especially considering there are competitors, like Amazon, appleAnd Googlewhich does not impose arbitration on users.

Based on comments in the Roku forums, some users were unaware that they were already subject to arbitration rules and only learned about it as a result of Roku's surprise pop-up.

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But with functionality blocked on already-owned devices until users give up, Roku's methods are questionable, and Roku may lose customers because of them. For every anonymous user on the Roku forum:

I'm disconnecting now.

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