“Disgraceful”: Messy Dose update locks Roku devices until users give permission

Zoom in / Promo for Roku TV.

Roku customers are threatening to stop using or throw away their low-cost TVs and streaming gadgetsToS)

This month, users of Roku Support forums It was reported that it was suddenly seen A message When reading on their Roku TV or streaming device: “We've made an important update: We've updated our Dispute Resolution Terms. Select 'I Agree' to accept these updated terms and continue enjoying our products and services. Press * to view these updated terms.” A big button that says “Accept” follows. The pop-up does not provide a way to opt-out, and users cannot use their device until they agree.

Customers have left pages of complaints on Roku's forum. A user who goes by “Rixstanford” said, “Rage!!!!” And revealed There's interest in sending six of their reported Roku devices back to the company because “despite spending hundreds of dollars, I obviously don't own them.”

Another user who goes by a former customer, aptly named I suspect, wrote:

So, you buy a product and use it. And they want to change the terms that limit your rights, and if you don't agree to their new terms, they'll basically brick the device. … I hope they come here, it's a shame.

Roku has further aggravated customers who found that not agreeing to its updated terms was more difficult than necessary. Roku is willing to accept its terms with the push of a button, but opting out requires users to jump through hoops that involve finding that old stamp book.

To deviate from Roku's ToS update, it primarily “Dispute Resolution Terms,” users must send a letter to Roku's general counsel in California: “the name and contact information for each person, the specific product models, software or services at issue, the email address where you used your Roku account (if you have one), and, if applicable, your purchase You set up a copy of the receipt.” This required Roku to deviate from the previous terms.

But the new update means that when users read this information, find a stamp, an envelope and paper, and deliver their letter, they cannot use the products they have already paid for and used, in some cases, different “dispute resolution terms.”

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

Based on the wording of the ToS, users can technically choose to accept the ToS on their device and then write a letter saying they want to opt out. But choosing to contract only to use a device under terms you disagree with is counterproductive.

Even more pressingly, Roku's ToS states that users must opt ​​out of Roku's updated terms on February 20th “within 30 days after you first became subject.” Otherwise, you are automatically selected.

Archived Records of Roku's ToS website show that the new ToS has been online since at least August. But just this month users said their TVs were useless unless they accepted the terms through an on-screen message. Roku declined to answer Ars Technica's questions about the changes and why it didn't warn users earlier. But the spokesperson shared a statement:

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 Roku

Customers criticize Roku for aggressively pushing to accept ToS changes. The updates focus on Roku's terms of dispute resolution, which prevent users from suing Roku. Regulations have long mandated a described arbitration process for dispute resolution. The new ToS is more detailed, including specifics for “mass arbitrations”. The biggest change is the introduction of a section on “necessary informal dispute resolution”. With a small number of described exceptions (involving intellectual property claims), users must make a “good faith effort” to negotiate with Roku for at least 45 days before entering arbitration, or vice versa.

Roku is also taking heat for using forced mediation, some might argue There are side benefits. For example, in a similar move in December, 23andMe said users had 30 days to opt out of its new dispute resolution terms, which included a mass arbitration provision (the genetics company allowed customers to opt out via email, however). The changes come after 23andMe user data was stolen in a cyber attack. Mandatory arbitration clauses are often used by large companies to avoid being sued by fed-up customers.

Roku's mandatory arbitration rules aren't new, but still make consumers question their streaming hardware, especially given the presence of competitors like Amazon. AppleAnd GoogleIt does not force arbitration on users.

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

But Roku's methods are questionable, and Roku could lose customers, as functionality is blocked on pre-owned devices until users give permission. To an anonymous user on Roku's forum:

I'll hang up now.

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