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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

  wee eddie 11:31 16 Nov 2007

In Catering it is a Crime to enter a restaurant and order a meal, with the intention of not paying for the items that you consumed.

In Garage terms, there are many who will not release your car until you have paid the Bill. Try getting Fuel on tic while driving down the Motorway.

I have never tried this but, try walking out of a supermarket without making any attempt to pay for the items in your bag.

I think that "helpinghand" may have a point but I don't think that the lack of security in your own network would suffice as proof that you personally did not down-load the Software and you would definitely be Vicariously responsible for the download.

  wee eddie 12:20 16 Nov 2007

I don't like the way they do it either.

On the other hand ~ That's what it says on the box!

  wee eddie 13:40 16 Nov 2007

MBS software installs itself on the PC that does the downloading.

So: even if someone were piggy-backing your WiFi, they would still get the software on their PC, even though MBS would have received it through your IP Address. It is the MBS Software that, as it were, phones home and keeps the records of the log-in time and date etc.

  Forum Editor 17:41 16 Nov 2007

will present the same IP address to a web server - the router has an address from the ISP and all the computers behind the router are allocated separate addresses by the router's onboard DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server.

Any software that was downloaded would go onto the machine that visited the download link however, it wouldn't get onto any of the other connected computers. The downloading computer will present the router's IP address to the download server, not the address it has been allocated by the router. If I visit your house and use my laptop on your wireless network to do a bit of porn surfing, it's your IP address that is left on each server log.

  Forum Editor 17:37 17 Nov 2007

I think you'll find that many people - including MBS - are aware of what you term 'higher-profile' media interest.

If you want to keep secrets from other forum members it might be better not to mention something on the one hand and then play secrecy games on the other - there's nothing more irritating.

  wee eddie 18:26 17 Nov 2007

I am surprised that you have just discovered that the Industry is watching MBS.

Almost everyone that sells an On-line Service will have been watching to see if the application could be of use to them. Those that designed the software will probably be rubbing their hands with glee and rolling out a vanilla version for use with more sober type of sales.

  Forum Editor 00:35 18 Nov 2007

No action has been taken against what you call "our Leeds 'friends'" because as far as everyone I've spoken to knows there is no action that can be taken. According to several lawyers, and Trading Standards, MBS is not breaking any laws.

When saying that I'm assuming that you mean legal action. Other action - like avoiding the site in question, or arguing individual cases with MBS - may certainly be taken, and presumably is being taken by individuals.

There's np double standard operating here - I'm operating the same standards as I have been operating since I first started working on this question, over a year ago. My approach is the same now as it was then, and has been stated many, many times in the threads we've had here, and in the articles I've written on the subject in the magazine - click here and you'll see what I had to say back in May of this year.

I intensely dislike the way that MBS appears to regard people who say they have never consented to the download of any billing software - I have evidence to show that the company's employees have taken the view that these people are liars, and threats of passing the matter to a 'third party' have been made - whatever that might mean. I invite MBS to tell me what they would do about someone who refuses to pay the amounts demanded. The only means of identification they are likely to have is an IP address, and that identifies nobody unless an Internet Service Provider can be persuaded to part with information that would personally identify an individual. That's not likely to happen unless a court orders it, and to date I know of no case of it happening with regard to MBS billing.

I'm not advocating that people default on payments for services they have ordered, and I have never done so, but there's no obligation on anyone to pay for something about which they have no knowledge - you cannot be forced to comply with the terms of a contract you didn't enter into, or about which you had no knowledge. There can be no binding contract without the real consent of both parties - what the law refers to as 'a meeting of minds'.

I don't believe that you and I are in any way opposed to each other's views on the subject of MBS, we just have rather different ways of approaching the subject. My methodology is in part dictated by my need to ensure that nothing happens here which may be actionable in terms of defamation, and partly by my natural inclination to seek some form of verification before acting on someone else's information. I have taken up individual cases with MBS in the past, and successfully so. On other occasions I've had good reason to believe that some people have visited the site in question, and have accepted a free trial without realising they were committing themselves to ongoing subscription payments.

It's this situation that I find distasteful - any company that wants to get visitors to opt out of a contract to pay subscription amounts regularly and ad infinitum, solely by telling them that they must cancel the agreement within the trial period, or have their computers partially disabled is not in my opinion behaving honourably and decently - albeit legally - and deserves to be censured for it. If you want people to enter into a subscription agreement you should make it very clear what the financial commitment will be, and when it will take effect. You should ask these people to identify themselves to you before they are permitted to have access to the service you're offering. In this way you ensure that your customers have an opportunity to pause for thought before accepting your terms and conditions.

Do all this with a porn site and you're likely to deter many potential subscribers, and that's the problem in a nutshell as far as the sellers of porn are concerned.

  spuds 11:46 18 Nov 2007

I thought that I would never say this, but what the FE as stated (00.35) makes absolute common sense, and I believe rightly or wrongly that this is the first time that I have witnessed it spelt out so clearly.

  Forum Editor 19:15 18 Nov 2007

Even if we might sometimes disagree about the detail and how we approach some aspects of the matter, I think there's a lot of common ground on this.

  Forum Editor 00:31 22 Nov 2007

A six year old child may not legally make a contract with anyone, so any commitment made by your grandson would not be enforceable.

For a contract to be a contract in the legal sense both parties must be legally able to enter into a contract, must agree to its terms, and must signify that agreement in some way. It's perfectly possible for a contract to be made verbally, of course, and that happens thousand of times every day - go into any financial institution's dealing room and you'll see the principle in action. We're talking about an online contract though, and here the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 apply.......or at least they apply with reservations.

Under the terms of the regulations, anyone selling online services must:

1. give consumers clear information including details of the goods or services offered, delivery arrangements and payment, the supplier's details and the consumer's cancellation right before they buy (known as prior information)

2. provide this information in writing

3. Provide the consumer with a cooling-off period of seven working days.

So far, so good, but there's a problem.

When said services begin, by agreement, before the end of the cancellation period the consumer loses the right to a 7 day cancellation period, providing the supplier has informed the consumer before the conclusion of the contract, in writing or another durable medium, that he will not be able to cancel once performance of the services has begun with his agreement.

In other words, you can't cancel the contract once you've started using the service, as long as the supplier tells you so, in writing or "another durable medium" before you agree to the contract. As far as I'm aware, neither the Office of Fair trading, or Trading Standards is of the opinion that there's anything illegal about the terms and conditions of the MBS agreement. The police can't act unless in their opinion a criminal offence has been committed, and again as far as I'm aware that's not the case.

I'm no lawyer, but my personal approach to this is to wonder how any company would set about enforcing a contract when all it has to go on is a computer's IP address. As far as I'm aware a computer can't legally enter into a contract, and in the absence of some means of identifying an individual there can surely be no contract - it simply doesn't exist.

Now all of that is pure conjecture on my part, and certainly doesn't imply that there's any wrongdoing on the part of MBS. I'm simply intrigued to know how the company imagines it would set about recovering sums of money from people it says have agreed to buy its services if it can't identify those people individually. Saying that someone entered into an agreement and producing proof of the fact are entirely different things. I'm sure MBS has this covered, and as I say, I'm not alledging any wrongdoing on the company's part. Nevertheless, it would be helpful to know if MBS has ever successfully prosecuted anyone for non-payment, or for removing the billing software from a computer without the company's agreement.

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

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