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MBS billing

  Forum Editor 11:41 02 Sep 2007

This is a continuation of the thread that was originally posted in the Helproom. That thread ended up being 21 pages long, with over 800 posts, and has been closed. In response to requests I'm opening this here, in Consumerwatch which is a more appropriate place, so the discussion may continue.

You can read the original thread if you click here

  Forum Editor 23:47 25 Nov 2007

Wee Eddie is absolutely correct when he says:

"As far as we know, and no one has yet been able to prove otherwise, a simple visit to the Front Page of a site using the MBS Software is insufficient to download the their Software."

I have visited the home page of a site that has the MBS billing system associated with it many times, and no software has ever been downloaded to my computer. You must click to accept the terms and conditions before the software is downloaded.

In saying that I'm not inferring that those who deny ever visiting the site are lying - I'm simply confirming my personal experience. Since I started working on the MBS issue I've tried hard to find out how this software might appear on my computer without any voluntary participation on my part, and I've failed.

  Forum Editor 23:59 25 Nov 2007

Thank you for that interesting information. I've taken a look at the SEEKMO software you mention, and I'm not personally too happy about some of the clauses in the terms and conditions.

That isn't to say there's anything sinister about it - the people who run the business are at great pains to say (repeatedly) that they have nothing to hide, etc. - but I wouldn't install anything that tells me it will produce pop-ups, or that is based on providing me with ad-supported content. The software provides you with content based on your search keywords, and it clearly states in the terms and conditions that this may include the provision of adult content.

In my view there's a possibility (I put it no higher) that third-party software could be downloaded without you realising it via this system. I have no way to demonstrate that theory without installing the SEEKMO software (which is actually provided by a company called Zango) and I'm not going to do that. I'm certainly going to try to find out more about it though, and once again, thanks for the information - it's something to consider.

  Forum Editor 00:32 26 Nov 2007

The point about legal opinions is well made, and of course no legal opinion can be said to be definitive until it's been tested in court.

Where contract law is concerned there are fairly well-established principles however, and there are certainly ways to check whether or not the terms and conditions attached to a contract offer are likely to stand up in a court. One of the opinions I heard (on a BBC radio programme) was that there might be a case to say that the MBS billing agreement contained unfair contract terms. As far as I know there's been no expansion of this opinion, and the MBS agreement hasn't been tested in a court. My own view - and of course I'm not a lawyer - is that MBS might do well to make the implications of accepting their free trial offer a good deal more prominent. It seems to me that the very essence of a fair contract should be that the conditions attaching to it are made crystal clear before anyone is invited to enter into it.

Leaving the question of legality aside for one moment, I believe that any company which hopes or expects its services to be widely accepted in the market should at the very least behave in a totally transparent fashion, right from the start. I think it's less than sensible to base a system on the fact that potential customers must opt out of a free trial or be committed to an ongoing subscription service. Indeed, some people might take the view that this was a way of obtaining turnover at the expense of transparency. I make no such allegation, but if a client asked me to advise on ways to enrol subscribers via a website I would certainly propose an opt-in system. At the end of the three-day trial period I would pop up a window saying

"Your free trial period has ended. If you would like to continue to access this site it will be necessary for you become a full subscriber. Your subscription costs will be £X per calendar month, and will be subject to our published terms and conditions - click here to read the terms. By clicking the 'enrol me' button you will signify your agreement to and acceptance of these terms, and your subscription will begin with the download of our billing software. Your first payment will be due in advance, and a bill for the amount due will shortly appear on your screen."

What could be simpler, or more clear than that?

If you didn't opt in you would hear no more - nothing would be downloaded, and there would be no long-winded online forum threads, or derogatory comments in blogs. Some people would object to seeing bills nagging them on their screens, but it would be very difficult for them to argue that they weren't warned, or that they weren't given a chance to change their minds.

The problem is, lots of people would take the opt-out route after three days, and therein lies the rub as far as the site's operators are concerned. We're talking about sex sites here, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. If a consumer gets a free trial for three days he/she is likely to want to move on and try another site when confronted with the possibility of having to pay for three months subscription up-front. After all, I didn't see anything in the terms and conditions that said the site's operators would undertake to continually update the site with fresh content. A cynic might think that once subscribed, he/she would be stuck with the same old content week after week, and have no way of doing anything about it.

  wee eddie 18:11 26 Nov 2007

You're a bit late on the scene. We had that argument, as related to MBS, over 10 months ago. It's a bore.

But a. Pornography is not illegal.

And b. If someone verifies that they are over 18 there is not a lot more a Web Site Owner can do.

  Forum Editor 00:38 27 Nov 2007

I don't think anyone has denied the possibility of back-door downloads - I certainly haven't.

  Forum Editor 00:47 27 Nov 2007

We call ourselves a consumer forum because that's what we are - the biggest by far in the UK, and probably one of the biggest in Europe. We've been at it for almost seven years, and we got big by being successful. That isn't achieved by talking the kind of silly, uninformed nonsense we're seeing in your posts, but by taking a balanced, well-informed look at problems as they're presented to us. Any idiot can rant away about scams, and having balls, but it's all so much meaningless waffle unless you have some knowledge with which to back it all up.

I'm 'defensive' as you put it because I know a little more than you about the law of defamation and libel. I know that some companies have a hair trigger when it comes to litigation, and I'm not here to act like a fool and expose our magazine's publisher to expensive libel actions. If I see evidence of wrongdoing on the part of any company or individual I'll follow it up - our company is the world's largest publisher of computer magazines, and we have a veritable army of expensive lawyers just itching to get to work.

We can live very well without your inane contributions, thanks, and I wish you well with whatever alternative forum you choose to inhabit.

  Forum Editor 00:53 27 Nov 2007

Thank you for your comments. I know My attitude can be infuriating to someone convinced of being in the right, but that would you rather have - an editor who slavishly agrees with everyone who complains, or one who looks a little deeper, and tries to get to the facts? Surely that's better than accepting everything at face value?

  Forum Editor 19:24 29 Nov 2007

from anybody who has attempted to get MBS to uninstall the billing system from a computer. Whether your attempt was successful or unsuccessful, and what you had to do in order to get MBS to respond.

You can contact me in absolute confidence, if that's what you would prefer - just email me at: [email protected]

  Forum Editor 11:27 01 Dec 2007

Many thanks for the reminder - I know I already have your particular details on file. I'm compiling a casebook of information about MBS software installation and uninstallation, and I would like as much feedback as possible on specific cases.

After more than a year spent in discussions - both here and elsewhere - on this subject I've reached the limit of my patience. MBS has had plenty of time to listen to what's been said, and to improve its business model, and as far as I can see the company seems intent on trading in exactly the same way. I find the MBS system repellent, I've said so before, and I'm saying it again. It may be perfectly legal to treat people in this way, but that's not all that matters in commerce - you don't get a good reputation in the commercial world simply by sticking to the letter of the law.

Anyone who thinks that it's OK to ignore a tide of consumer opposition had better think again, and think very carefully.

  spuds 12:17 01 Dec 2007

The problem is that a increasing number of companies ignore consumer opposition. If they cease trading via one means or another, the owners are usually at liberty to trade again (possibly using the same methods) without concern for anyone.Thinking that it will deter some people, because they have upset the public, is barking up the wrong tree.

Some people have got exceeding rich using various practises of a possible unsavoury or unpleasant nature. And history seems to repeat itself, time and time again!.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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