Legal Position on requiring IE on Windows to access paid for service?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by CraigyP, Feb 12, 2007.

  1. CraigyP macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #1
    Hi all. Please be gentle with me, this is my first post!

    My question is regarding an odd situation I find myself in at the moment, and really want to do something pro-active about.

    I have recently signed up for a new 12 month mobile phone contract with Virgin Mobile here in the UK. They were the cheapest at the time, and now I know why. Their service (both customer service, and technical service) is very poor and certainly not a patch on the faultless O2 service I was with last year. That'll learn me for trying something new. However, that is another story (and probably another forum).

    My question relates to how Virgin Mobile handle their picture messaging service. With O2, I was simply sent a few special SMS messages when I joined their network, and my MMS and GPRS details were automatically sent to my phone. I had to do this all manually myself for Virgin Mobile to get this to work. With O2 (and any other network I have encountered), when a picture message is sent to your phone, it appears immediately on your phone. I have received a few picture messages myself to my Virgin Mobile phone, but instead of the actual picture message itself, I end up being sent a link to their website with a code I have to type in to access my picture message.

    I have a picture messaging phone. I have GPRS and all the relevant services enabled. Why can't I get the message directly? After some digging around, I find that I have to actually sent a picture message first, before I am able to receive them. I had to call Virgin Mobile's customer service department to find this out (which cost me 10p) - so now its going to cost me 40p before I'm able to receive any of the picture messages anyone wants to send me. Not a great sum of money, but I find it ludicrous that their systems require me to actually send a message before I can properly receive one.

    Ah... right, ok. I'm ranting here, and I haven't yet reached the point. I apologise. Thanks for sticking with me. Here's the point:

    The link I get sent, to go to the Virgin Mobile web site and access my picture message, warns me that their web site may not work properly unless I'm using Internet Explorer 6 or above. Of course, I'm not - and neither Safari nor Firefox work at all, and I'm not able to see the message.

    My question is this: is there a legal precedent about being effectively denied full access to a service I have paid for because I'm not using Windows and Internet Explorer 6 or above? It isn't even the case that their website 'degrades' gracefully if I'm not using Internet Explorer on Windows and shows me the information I'm requesting in a slightly less fancy way - it just flat doesn't work.
    Has anything like this (websites offering services that have been paid for, not working unless you're on IE / on Windows) even been tested legally before? Is there the basis of a case here?

    It seems to me that if some legal precedent could be made that forced web designers offering web sites that users have to pay to access to ensure they were available cross-platform and cross-browser, it would be to the benefit of all. There are clear accessibility issues here too, surely?

    Anyone out there with a bit of legal experience? What do you think?
     
  2. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816

    SpookTheHamster

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #2
    The only thing you'd be able to get from them would be a cancelled contract at best, because you can't use what you paid for. There's nothing illegal about what they're doing at all.
     
  3. miniConvert macrumors 68040

    miniConvert

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    Location:
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    #3
    Web designers, and companies/organisations in general, should be free to develop for whomever they want on whatever platform they want, IMHO. There's enough competition out there to ensure that if one website isn't going to meet your needs then there's half a dozen others that will. The last thing we should do is stifle business with even more legislation.

    Get that contract cancelled and move on to somebody else, making sure Virgin know full well of the issue. Either that or get MMS enabled on your contract so you receive the messages to your handset ;)
     
  4. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #4
    You can deffo get your contract cancelled if thats what you want.

    Speaking of O2, I had some problems with never being able to log into all the details on the O2 website (in the UK, with firefox and safari on my PB). I could never get MMS to work on my phone either despite it being a XDA mini s smartphone.

    I'm changing now to T-mobile cos of their data plans. Can someone confirm that the T-mobile website works fine with apple macs?

    Overall, which do people reckon is the best mobile provider, as far as working with macs go ? (UK please, but US people are welcome to chip in)
     
  5. iGav macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2002
    #5
    Orange™ ;)
     
  6. elppa macrumors 68040

    elppa

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2003
    #6
    That's Virgin for you.

    Crummy little company.

    Can't stand them.
     
  7. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #7
    The thing in terms of a legal precedent is probably that you, at some point, agreed to small print text that you didn't read. I think it's a crummy and needlessly complicated system, don't get me wrong. But the best you're likely to get is a free service cancellation....
     
  8. miniConvert macrumors 68040

    miniConvert

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    Location:
    Kent, UK - the 'Garden of England'.
    #8
    Vodafone IMHO, as far as everything goes ;) Is Vodafone Mobile Connect/Vodafone 3G Broadband/Vodafone USB Modem still the only 3G service Mac-compatible at POS in the UK? The USB Modem even looks Apple-ish.

    The MMS thing is a bit of a red herring though - sounds like MMS just needs to be provisioned on the account and then it wouldn't be an issue.
     
  9. CraigyP thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #9
    Thanks for all the replies, people.

    I probably did sign up to something that I didn't realise at the time. After a while, you tend to expect a certain uniformity between mobile phone contracts. I've certainly never encountered this kind of thing before on any other network (both the need to send a MMS to set up being able to receive them, and IE 6 on Windows being required to access a web site).

    Personally, my experience with O2 previously was very good. Orange dropped considerably in my estimation after both their customer service and their signal strength took a nose dive. I could do everything I needed to with O2's web site using Firefox, and their customer service tended to be very good (although I think I only had to call them once).

    Rarely would my signal on O2 drop below three bars (out of four) wherever I went in the country.

    In my opinion, using a mobile in the UK for data access is both too slow and far far too expensive. If I needed mobile data access, I'd invest in a good pocket wireless sniffer, a bluetooth GPS and a map of hotspots ;-)

    So you dudes think I may be able to cancel my contract based on the fact that I can't receive MMS until I send one (which I'm not going to do on principle now) and the fact that I can't get access to their crappy web site?

    Has to be worth a go! Anything to get out of the clutches of crappy Virgin Mobile.

    Thanks all!
     
  10. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2005
    Location:
    Paddyland
    #10
    Are you within any "cooling off" period? You might be able to just return it and cancel your contract. I think there's a 2 week period for distance selling, so if you signed up on the internet you might be sorted.

    You could also try the "You sold me a service I can't use" line, and go down the Sale of Goods Act (UK has a similar act) route - not fit for the purposes intended.

    There's a bit more here.

    As for forcing them to make the site mac compatible, forget it.
     
  11. elppa macrumors 68040

    elppa

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2003
    #11
    No, they'll fleece you for all you are worth because they are a soulless penny pinching organisation.
     
  12. CraigyP thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #12
    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with you at all on this point. In my case, I'm locked into using Virgin Mobile now for a whole year. I have no option to use a different web site that has chosen to support browsers other than IE6.

    Neither can I agree that legislation would stifle competition. We have anti-discrimination legislation that is supposed to protect minorities and those with disabilities from being ignored, marginalised or bullied into keeping quiet. When I'm not able to access a web site as I'm not using IE, or generally prevented from doing something since I'm not running Windows, I am being disadvantaged. Sure, nine times out of ten, I go elsewhere and try a web site or application that does support my computer. But there are occasions where services are offered exclusively through a particular channel that I can't gain access to due to not using Windows.

    The terse message I get when I go to Virgin Mobile's web site and am told that the 'web site may not work if you're not using Internet Explorer 6 or above' is effectively telling me to go and find a Windows machine somewhere.

    Although this is a deeply contrived example, it is tantamount to a form of discrimination suffered by disabled people who require a wheel chair - instead of blaming the several flights of stairs they are expected to traverse, it it like blaming the person themselves for being disabled. I continually get the sense that I'm being marginalised from accessing the full range of services offered due to the fact that I'm not part of a majority (of Windows users, in this case).

    The only way to stop this is by legislation. I'm not asking that we enact draconian measures requiring all web sites to support every browser ever written. Just some simple legislation that required at least one browser that had cross-platform desktop support (i.e. Firefox) to work would be enough. Sure, the mobile PDA or phone users wouldn't be covered by this legislation - you have to stop somewhere - but the spirit of such legislation would be to force cross-browser support to the top of the agendas of web designers, thereby forcing them to take a more standard approach to their web design, which would greatly increase the chance of the PDA and mobile devices working.

    Obviously in the case of Virgin Mobile, they needed to bash something together quickly and cheaply, and chose the IE / Windows only route as they probably had in-house knowledge on how to do this. If there was some kind of compelling guideline or legislation in place, maybe they would have chosen something far more standards based instead of just jumping straight into the easiest and most proprietary solution.
     
  13. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2005
    Location:
    Paddyland
    #13
    Your argument on discrimination is a bit weak - most people don't choose to be disabled, or black (except Michael Jackson who chooses to be white - and scary), or gay etc. That is a personal attribute, not a choice. You chose your computer platform, and therefre you would be expected to live with the consequences. It's not like the mobile company are exercising monopoly power by leaving you no alternative but to sign with them.
    A judge would laugh at that argument, and it's not often they laugh openly at a plaintiff.
    as to legal remedies - the key issue is whether the use of IE6 is incorporated in the contract - have a look at your contract. If it's not, then you can walk.
    I don't see any refernce to being browser specific in the T & C on the website. The thing about sending a message first does seem to be in the main site though)

    The only real way to do anything is to vote with your feet and find a way of leaving them, and sending an e-mail to the webmaster that his/her site is not standards compliant (don't be fanboy in it or your opinion WILL be discounted). You could lobby your local politician, but that's not likely to get too far either.
     
  14. CraigyP thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #14
    Unfortunately, I am outside this period now. Good thinking though ;-)

    This is also a good idea! I've given Consumer Direct a call, and they are basically saying that there could be a case for straight breach of contract if they are offering a service that I can't use, and it isn't mentioned in the terms and conditions. It basically comes down to the terms and conditions, which I will dig out tonight and have a look through.

    Thanks for your comments!
     
  15. CraigyP thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2007
    #15
    I thought someone might bring me up on this. ;-) As I said: deeply contrived example :)

    I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that I may have chosen a specific platform to use, but unless its made perfectly clear to me that I'm going to be denied access before I sign up for a service (in this case, in the T&Cs), then I'm being discriminated against. In a sense like the disabled person trying to attend a job interview, but not told there would be stairs to negotiate.

    Actually... no. It isn't really anything like being disabled, and it is rude and presumptuous of me to try and liken the frustrations with being disabled to the frustrations of not being able to receive picture messages... I meant the parallel only in the loosest possible of senses.

    I am going to try my damnedest to leave them though.
     
  16. j26 macrumors 65832

    j26

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2005
    Location:
    Paddyland
    #16

    We'll give you the benefit of the doubt and presume you meant disability in the legal sense (drunk, infant (under 18), insane, idiot etc);)
     

Share This Page