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Microsoft, Best Buy Face Racketeering Suit 153

Posted by kdawson
from the one-way-to-sign-up-customers dept.
15 judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have unanimously reversed dismissal of a RICO class action suit against Microsoft and Best Buy, which claims the companies engaged in fraud in promoting Microsoft's MSN online service. (RICO is a statute originally intended to help prosecutors go after organized crime.) Quoting: "The case started after James Odom bought a PC-based laptop at a Contra Costa County Best Buy store. Data about the purchase was sent to Microsoft as part of a joint marketing agreement between the companies. Microsoft then signed Mr. Odom up for its MSN Internet service and, after a free trial period, began billing him for it." Howard Bashman's How Appealing blog has more details on the reversal, including a paraphrase from one of the appellate judges that "all blame rests with the U.S. Supreme Court for allowing the 'outlandish' result that a claim such as this can be pursued under RICO."
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Microsoft, Best Buy Face Racketeering Suit

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darundal (891860) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:35PM (#19003315) Journal
    If the accusations of signing people up without their consent is true, both companies should be judicially raped for it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If the accusations of signing people up without their consent is true, both companies should be judicially raped for it.


      Too bad Washington is just a small department inside Microsoft.

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sorthum (123064) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:40PM (#19003375) Homepage
      No kidding. I get pissed when companies do it to their product e-mailing lists (spam is about consent, not content), actually charging my credit card (provided to ANOTHER COMPANY) is inexcusable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        actually charging my credit card (provided to ANOTHER COMPANY) is inexcusable.

        How does that actually work as far as your credit card contract, I wonder? if I am the only one authorized to make a purchase with my card, how can BestBuy make a purchase for me?
        • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

          by arth1 (260657) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:29PM (#19003797) Homepage Journal
          The customer actually signs up for the service, starting after the "free" trial period ends. The problem is that they don't give the customer time to read through the small print before they sign, nor explain that this will happen. "You need to sign here, here, and down here. You need help carrying that to the car?"
          • Bingo. The exact thing happened to me when I bought a machine in 2002. The worst part is that the Best Buy salesman stated that by signing up (and then cancelling before the free trial was over) that I could get an instant rebate, or a bonus disc, or some other nonsense. Well I went for it and attempted to cancel the trial, except that MSN refused to cancel the trial until it was over (read: until I had made a payment). Long story short, they wouldn't cancel it even after that, and they didn't stop billing
        • by Duhavid (677874)
          See, they put a clause in the bill of sale ( 5th page,
          helvetical .00005 point font, color light yellow )
          about how taking the computer out the front door is
          acceptance of a contract allowing the charging of
          your credit card by the third party.

          Here is one for you... There is some collections
          agency after some woman. My work number is in their
          database as the number for this person. So, every
          couple days, I get a call, rolled over from my work
          account to my personal cell phone. They say something
          like

          "this call i
          • By reading this post, you agree to pay me one million dollars.

            Such a statement on a call is just as much (or as little) enforceable as that. It's a trick for the gullible, it carries no real weight.

    • It is Microsoft's business model to force you to buy crap you don't want and have no choice in, so business as usual.
      • by maxume (22995)
        Of course, this is probably due to individual Best Buy stores working to meet corporate sales goals and finding it easy to cheat, not some insidious plot between high level executives at Microsoft and Best Buy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by taniwha (70410)
      while I agree with your sentiment your words offend me .... rape should never be a punishment - that way lies Abu Gharib and a medieval world view
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by osu-neko (2604)

        He's right. We should just slowly torture these guys instead...

        • by Darundal (891860)
          I was speaking metaphorically. Replace the word "raping" in my post with the words "tied to a post, forced to admit what they have done, fully reimburse all affected by it, pay all costs associated with the case, each pay a hefty fine (not an odd sum, but a percentage of of all money taken in by the companies while committing these despicable acts), and have some type of temporary restriction on their ability to conduct business placed on them." The use of the word "raping" was a very poor choice of words,
  • Figures... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sorthum (123064) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:37PM (#19003351) Homepage
    While it wasn't prosecuted under RICO, there have been similar issues with a number of adult website memberships. "Sign up for this for free, the credit card is for age verification only." Three days later, they bill you for a "recurring membership" for their affiliate sites that are just this side of impossible to opt out of. (This happened to a client-- I don't pay for my porn.)

    In fairness, you kinda expect this from the seedier side of the web.

    You don't expect it from Best Buy and the largest software company on the planet.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      (This happened to a client-- I don't pay for my porn.)

      Riiiiiiiight...

    • Re:Figures... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aichpvee (631243) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:27PM (#19003775) Journal
      Why wouldn't you expect it from microsoft? Seems right in line with fucking over anyone and everyone necessary to push their products, regardless of how few people want it.
    • the credit card is for age verification only."

      Yeap, that's the hook, the cc is for verification only. But only for the three free days. Read such free offers and they'll say if you don't cancel at the end of the 3 days then they'll bill your cc. However many won't cancel. What some may not know though is that the cc holder can dispute the charges. And some merchant bankers or credit card verifiers will drop a client who has too many chargebacks.

      Falcon
    • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Informative)

      by The One and Only (691315) <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:48PM (#19003965) Homepage

      Three days later, they bill you for a "recurring membership" for their affiliate sites that are just this side of impossible to opt out of.

      That's when you call your credit card company and do a chargeback. Of course, porn sites know this is an awkward thing for some credit card customers to do.

      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        "They apparently assumed that most consumers would be too embarrassed [consumeraffairs.com] to contest the charges when they learned they were from an adult-oriented site. [...] And where did the defendants, all of Malibu, CA, get the names and credit card numbers of their victims, many of whom the FTC said do not even own computers? They bought them from a bank."
    • Re:Figures... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slickwillie (34689) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:55PM (#19004025)
      "You don't expect it from Best Buy and the largest software company on the planet."

      I guess you've never heard of the "Microsoft Tax". You know, the one where the manufacturer must charge you for a copy of Windows whether you want it or not. Otherwise M$FT will cut off the manufacturer from being able to sell Windows at all.
  • Howard Bashman's How Appealing blog has more details on the reversal, including a paraphrase from one of the appellate judges that "all blame rests with the U.S. Supreme Court for allowing the 'outlandish' result that a claim such as this can be pursued under RICO."

    The blog calls it a "concurring opinion", but it sounds like a dissenting opinion.

    Since Bashman is talking about that subset of those 15 judges that originally dismissed the case, maybe it's a concurring opinion from the original hearing, rather than from the current reversal?

    • The blog says it's from one of 2 judges to issue a minority opinion out of 15 judges on the panel. Frankly I think a lot of people are going to scoff at RICO being relevant here because "respectable" corporations like Microsoft and Best Buy should not be accountable to a law meant for Italians.
      • Frankly I think a lot of people are going to scoff at RICO being relevant here because "respectable" corporations like Microsoft and Best Buy should not be accountable to a law meant for Italians.

        Don't forget the Irish and other not as white white people.
      • by krbvroc1 (725200)

        Frankly I think a lot of people are going to scoff at RICO being relevant here because "respectable" corporations like Microsoft and Best Buy should not be accountable to a law meant for Italians.
        I thought Rico Suave was some type of Spanglish Rapper? He was an Italian? Who knew! I learn something everyday here on /.
    • Re:Outlandish result (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:38PM (#19003881)

      The blog calls it a "concurring opinion", but it sounds like a dissenting opinion.

      No it doesn't. The quote from him is very clear that he thinks that following Supreme Court precedents requires him to reach the conclusion that the claim can be pursued under RICO. So that's his ruling; the claim can be pursued under RICO, concurring with the others. He and one other judge just wanted to make it absolutely clear that they think this is fucked up. They're allowed to do that.
    • Re:Outlandish result (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Darundal (891860) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:46PM (#19004409) Journal
      A dissenting opinion would be written by one or all of the justices who disagreed with the majority opinion. A concurring opinion states is from a justice(s) who voted with the majority of the other justices (and hence, voted for the ruling that is final) stating that yes, they do agree with the majority on what should happen, but disagree on why. Sometimes, the person who ends up writing the concurring opinion actually ended up having the same idea about what and why, but the person who wrote the majority opinion (by default the Chief Justice) or whoever is assigned to write the opinion (who is assigned by the Chief Justice) wrote it in such a way that everyone else disagrees with large pieces or all of it. Sometimes, a justices will vote the opposite way that they feel, with the sole goal of getting to write the majority opinion, because then they can water it down so that the opinion leaves broad room for interpretation.
  • by MollyB (162595) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:38PM (#19003361) Journal
    I have no idea how this particular issue will play out, but this court [wikipedia.org] has had many decisions overturned, for reasons spelled out in the Wiki reference.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      First of all, you broke your link - I fixed it. [wikipedia.org] Secondly: according to that article, the bulk of the gripes against the court seem to be that they're out of step with Supreme Court precedent; in this case, they claim to be following it, and blame the Supreme Court for any resulting silliness. Perhaps this means it's less likely to be overturned?
  • Insurance... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by AchiIIe (974900)
    Dear kdawson, arbitraryaardvark We sure hope you have health insurance... and that it covers broken legs. - The slashdot community
    • Dear kdawson, arbitraryaardvark We sure hope you have health insurance... and that it covers broken legs. - The slashdot community
      [ Reply to This ]
      Yikes. Nope.
  • by 3seas (184403) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:43PM (#19003405) Journal
    .... what to expect of their lifespan.

    When you have to resort to dishonest tactics as stealing, you don't have much time left.

    I went into a best buy just yesterday and noted the prices for computer related products was a good bit higher than Micro Center and that their DVD movies are also higher priced than I can find elsewhere locally.

    Best buy isn't a best buy anymore and Microsoft, long known to be aggressive marketing with stepping over the legal and moral fence in a calculated manner should never steal in such a manner as this article indicates... unless they really are hurting. So they did it in at least two different ways.....but where else are they proping themselves up in a financial paperwork appearance?

    Ever wonder what assets vs. debt would be if MS had to liquidate? A million on paper can convert to a penny in liquidated into hard cash. Oh but you have stock holders...... and that is the real point.
  • Neither Microsoft nor Best Buy has the best of track records with treating their customers with honesty. Best Buy's alleged bait and switch internal website [lawyersand...ements.com] and the multitude of Microsoft failings with their customers (Windows Genuine "Advantage" and the Vista/IPod issues come to mind immediately) put both corporations at a definite disadvantage as far as character goes. The fact that they have now been accused of working together to try to boost their respective profits through questionable and/or possi
    • In their defense, Vista/iPod problems are Apple's fault. There had been Vista betas for developers for months and Apple neglected to fix the incompatibilities with their software.

      I'm no fan of the Microsloth, but must we stoop to bullshit?
  • Not to punish promotion of multi-colored butterflies. Microsoft should be broken up into several companies and barred from anti-competitive practices. But this doesn't make any more sense than punishing P2P downloaders under laws passed to fight actual maritime pirates.
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:37PM (#19003877)
      It really has little to do with violent crime. Violence is just a technique used by organized crime.

      RICO actually stands for:

      Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

      according to Wikipedia Racketeering is:

      The term racket comes from the Italian word ricatto (blackmail) and is also used as a pejorative term for legitimate businesses. Typically, this usage is based on the example of the "protection racket" and indicates that the speaker believes that the business is making money by selling a solution to a problem that it created (or that it intentionally allows to continue to exist), specifically so that continuous purchases of the solution are always needed.

      (no, I'm not making that up)

      Sound like any large software company we might all be familiar with?

      I never thought of Bill Gates as just a non-violent, really smart version of Tony Soprano.. but damned if it doesn't fit.
      • by legirons (809082)
        "making money by selling a solution to a problem that it created (or that it intentionally allows to continue to exist)"

        Haha, 0wned, microsoft... ;)

        actually that text sounds like it was word-for-word designed to apply to microsoft's security practises
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by eonlabs (921625)
        What problem are you paying Microsoft to fix that it created?

        It's OS has free updates.

        Office has free updates.

        Their powertoys are free, and that remedies a large number of complaints about their software.

        You pay your employees to write better code that supports IE7 and the actual HTML standard.

        I'm sorry, I just don't seem to see where they are "making money by selling a solution to a problem that [they] created (or that [they] intentionally [allow] to continue to exist),"...
        • by toddestan (632714)
          How is this modded troll? While there is no shortage of reasons to not like Microsoft, I don't really see how they are running a racket with Windows and/or Office.
          • by eonlabs (921625)
            I clearly needed to say "Everyone hates Microsoft" in that post for it to be modded well.
      • No No No No Tony is not the person you are looking for its Vito Corleone that Bill is trying to copy (okay what hasn't MS ripped off of somebody??)

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:55PM (#19003507)
    And then took all my karma.
  • Sign-ups (Score:3, Interesting)

    by king-manic (409855) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:02PM (#19003553)
    I work at a Canadian telecom. I am aware that some portions of the company (door-to-door and Telemarketing, all contractors) will blatantly misrepresent our products and deals to fill their pockets. I think the guys isn't a victim so much of big business as he is of a sales guy who misrepresented things. In the big picture neither MS nor Best Buy would benefit from the pittance the guy would have paid for the service but the sales guy probably got 5 bucks and does it a lot.
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Here in the US, it is very common for big businesses to steal in small amounts. When you are talking about millions of customers, and reoccurring small amounts, $5 really starts to add up. Think about how much money McDonalds makes. I don't think they have a single item on their menu that costs more than $5. Maybe some of the meal packages, but no single item. I have caught businesses stealing in small amounts many times. Just a few years ago, I caught PacBell (now SBC) running a scheme where they st
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah, but when the corporation doesn't explicitly tell their employees to make sure that customers understand what they're signing up for, and that corporation goes so far as to make it an incentive for employees to hard sell, then the problem is corporate policy, not a rogue employee.

      You're right, a single guy getting charged for a month of MSN isn't going to raise the stock price of Microsoft or Best buy. This is a class action lawsuit which means there are many guys (and gals) who got charged for a serv
      • I am aware of what you mean. The in house front facing staff are all told to be sure and inform everyone of every details then told we have both time and sales quotas. Fortunately I am a fast talker and am good at getting all sorts of people to understand what the charges are. So I can ethically sell people things ethically, fast, and often. I'm in the top 60 sales for the company for regular old consumer sales. But even here there are dodgey people. I was advised by a former outbound telemarketer that they
    • by gaderael (1081429)
      What are the odds that you work for Rogers? If so, I know exactly what you mean. I was on the receiving end more than once of an irate customer who was bamboozled by the sales end of things. Never tld what their bill would really cost, how the bill setup works, how you're majorly screwed if you spend thity minutes on your new cell phone and then decide that it's no good. Then they get to hear the dealer tell them "oh well, To f**kin' bad." They're barely given anymore than 10 seconds to look at the con
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:04PM (#19003571)
    Yep, I worked for Best Buy for quite a long time and I know this was never a corporate policy (hardly anything the stores do is corporate policy. This protects corporate from being blamed on our horrendous practices while allowing us to meet their unrealistic expectations).

    First, they expected us to sign up approximately 50-75% of all PC purchases with MSN accounts. My store trended about 15-20%... So our management took some advice they heard on a higher level... It's free, it comes with the PC. We were able to boost our numbers to about 50% attachment by not explaining what was happening during the process. We didn't explain it was a free trial, we didn't explain they had to cancel, we helped speed them through the process and I even witnessed some people using the touchpad for the customers to accept the agreements.

    This was an INCREDIBLY dirty practice and why have such animosity towards Best Buy.

    The last time I forced customers to setup with this was a memorable occasion. A semi-intelligent customer realizes I had just set him up with something that he did not want. I confused him by rushing him through the process, what I was shown and instructed to do. After the transaction was over, he saw the agreement on the receipt and was furious. He requested a manager, which I went and got. As I explained the situation to the manager, they were like 'oh crap' and then told me what I'm about to do I have to do infront of the customer but no this is just a front for the customer. The manager gets to the GeekSquad area, the customer explains the situation, the manager begins to apologize and blame the entire thing on me and not being experience, ignorant, etc. So basically the customer thought I was an idiot and I tried to screw him over. So the company saved face on my expense. After the customer left, the manager apologized again for what he had to do, but it couldn't be revealed this was actually what we were supposed to do. From that point forward, I never pressured anybody into any contracts and management did not like that. However, they let it slide because I would explain what had happened before and my sales were so strong on everything else, they couldn't really fault me. I received the store MVP award for approximately 2 years straight (every month, every quarter).

    So yea, fook best buy and their dirty as practices. It's never corporate, but the managers that don't meant their goals will likely be fired within a few months. So stores do everything they can to keep their management employed. Fooked up system right? Oh and did I tell you that the stores compete against each other on goals, so half of the company is always in the dog house. Half of the management is always on alert that they could be fired or replaced shortly. They pull out all the tricks to stay in the top half.
    • Would you testify this stuff under oath? Maybe it worths something.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I worked at Best Buy, and one time they made me try to summon the devil. But I quit, because I like Linux and free software and stuff.

      See? It's easy to make up some story, post it anonymously and pretend it's true.
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:01PM (#19004063)
        I worked at Best Buy, and one time they made me try to summon the devil. But I quit, because I like Linux and free software and stuff.

        You should have just installed FreeBSD. Free software AND the devil's included.
      • by eclectro (227083)
        See? It's easy to make up some story, post it anonymously and pretend it's true.

        The problem is that Best Buy has managed to successfully summon the devil on multiple occasions beforehand, giving credence to parent post.

      • by KingOfBLASH (620432) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @06:34PM (#19005473) Journal
        My girlfriend bought her laptop at Best Buy.

        They tried to do this exact thing with AOL. They also tried to make my girlfriend pay to get service pack 2 installed, and pay to get an antivirus and firewall installed.

        So she declined. And they told her they were getting her computer out of the back, and had us wait by the geek squad area. Checking her reciept, she's got the "Geek Squad Service Pack 2 & Antivirus Package Install" on it.

        So she asked where her computer was. They told her they couldn't interrupt the installation.

        So we had to DEMAND to see a manager, and we basically had to tell them they could either get us a new untouched computer out of the back, finish the install for free, or refund her money.

        After losing a half hour of our life arguing with the assholes, we finally got our way.

        We've had similar experiences trying to get her computer serviced at 3 seperate stores in 3 seperate cities.

        Avoid Best Buy like the plague.
        • My girlfriend bought her laptop at Best Buy.

          Well, there's your problem right there.

          • Unfortunately, unlike a desktop, I lack the skills necessary to assemble one from scratch for her.

            They had a *really* good deal. Cheaper than anywhere else we could find. One of those specials to clear old models out of the store.

            It seemed like an obvious choice to us given the price -- but we didn't realize what we were in for.
            • They had a *really* good deal. Cheaper than anywhere else we could find. One of those specials to clear old models out of the store.

              And probably because they discounted below the rates they could normally afford because they figured they'd make it up by screwing^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H offering you the 'services' you mentioned anyway.

              I haven't yet found a laptop where 'you get what you pay for' isn't true.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I, as a (former) Best Buy customer who considers myself quite intelligent, got swindled into a magazine subscription I didn't want by one of you guys. He told me there was a free magazine and I just had to pick which one I wanted, so I picked one. He then rushed through some process which appeared to be collecting info for return policy on the item I was purchasing, and then when I paid the machine apparently didn't read the credit card properly and asked me to swipe it again.

      When I asked where the magazine
    • "So yea, fook best buy and their dirty as practices."

      And "fook" you for going along with them (but thanks for speaking up).
    • by pipingguy (566974) * on Saturday May 05, 2007 @07:27PM (#19005969) Homepage
      After the customer left, the manager apologized again for what he had to do, but it couldn't be revealed this was actually what we were supposed to do.

      The New Yorker, 8 March 1930, p. 12.
      THE TALK OF THE TOWN
      There is no telling about ladies when they are disturbed, or ruffled. One of the things ladies demand, when something goes wrong with their shopping, is that the store discharge the employee whose fault it was. A store uptown has learned how very mollifying it is to ladies to witness a dismissal, and they have assigned one of their employees to be the goat in all cases. It is his job to be discharged. Whenever an aggrieved patron of the store demands the scalp of an employee, this young man is summoned, the blame is at once traced to his negligence, he is given a severe talking to and told to get his hat and leave. Sometimes he is fired as many as twenty times in a week, always to the immense relief of the customer and never with any particular injury to himself. In fact, he rather likes it -- gives him time to go across to Schrafft's for a soda.

      Leewin B. Williams, ed., *Encyclopedia of Wit, Humor, and Wisdom*. New York & Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1949, p. 96.
      No. 666. A customer of a big New York department store complained of bad service. The manager called an employee, blamed him for the negligence, and fired him in the customer's presence. A few weeks later the same customer again had cause for complaint and again the same employee was called and fired for his carelessness. Probably you've guessed it. The store employed and "O.F.M." or "Official Fired Man" just to soothe the ruffled feelings of peeved customers. Often sympathetic customers plead with the manager not to dismiss the offending employee. Then the "O.F.M." is recalled and the manager explains to him that only the customer's pleading saved him. It is the "O.F.M.'s" duty to grasp the customer's hand in gratitude while brushing away a stage tear.
  • Supreme Court rejects case.

    Appeals court reinstates case.

    Reason? Quote: "all blame rests with the U.S. Supreme Court for allowing the 'outlandish' result that a claim such as this CAN be pursued under RICO." (emphasis mine)

    Shouldn't that be CAN'T? If not, the sentence would mean that the Supreme Court AGREES that it can be pursued under RICO, so...

    Could someone please tell a confused Wabbit Wabbit what he's missing here???
    • Nope, he supreme court hasn't touched this case yet. The district court tossed the case out, Odom took it to the appeals court, the appeals court reinstated the case, and bloggers started writing in Latin.

      The blame on the Supreme Court is presumably a reference to an earlier decision (on another case) that set a precedent, making it legally feasible to pursue this case under RICO. I haven't yet decoded which previous case they're referring to, though.

    • Supreme Court rejects case.

      I'm confused too. I read a few articles on this case and not one said anything about the Supreme Court rejecting the case.

      ' Falcon
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by acercanto (930670) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:31PM (#19003823) Homepage
    In Soviet Russia, you sign up for servi.... waait. Suddenly, Russia isn't looking too bad. ;-)
  • *Sigh* I'm already boycotting Microsoft (Mac user), Sony (rootkit), and Wal-Mart. Now I have to add another company to the list. What sucks is that they own futureshop.ca, where I go to buy a lot of electronics, video games, etc. I can't do business with either anymore.
  • by Spooon69 (758526) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @03:48PM (#19003969)
    He took it to court? He should have handled it in the Contra Best Buy store itself, all it would have taken is... UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT B A
  • by Excelcia (906188) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:03PM (#19004087) Homepage Journal
    Silverman and his group (Rymer, Tallman, Rawlinson, and Bea) have their collective heads up their arses. They suggest that they can't see any sort of enterprise in the complaint. In the complaint, it is alleged that one partner would get the credit card info and send it to the other to process and bill. If two corprorations working together to this end - and even memorializing the arrangement contractually- doesn't comprise an "enterprise", good heavens what does? With these guys making decisions, it's no wonder the ninth circuit has so many of their decisions reversed. I'm just glad that enough other justices were on the panel with heads on their shoulders to make the correct decision. If this had been remanded solely because the complainants should have been able to amend to "correct" his mistake, it would have been substantially harder for them to prove their case. I mean, how much more evidence of an enterprise can you actually get? If these were solely criminal organizations, they wouldn't even have had contracts to memorialize their arrangements (at least not contracts like the legal system thinks of the term). What was Silverman thinking?

    Poor Bybee was sour grapes too.
  • RICO is a Bad Law (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirBruce (679714) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @04:05PM (#19004111) Homepage
    RICO was originally designed to deal with organized crime ala the Mafia. The problem is it has many times been abused to attack corporations who run afoul of the law. Many companies are completely unprepared for the realities of RICO because it's not something that would normally apply to them. RICO had a noble purpose, but the language of it is so broad, and supported by SCOTUS, that it's a danger to any company.

    Here's a quick example. Let's suppose a small conservative town in Texas decides that something like FHM magazine is "obscene" and inappropriate for kids. They pass an ordinance saying so. The next day, the cops come in and close down a local 7-11 for selling FHM, takes 'em to court, and they're found guilty. Southland Corporation decides not to fight on free speech grounds and pays the fine or whatever. They make sure not to sell the magazine in that town anymore. Remember, SCOTUS says obscenity is defined by local community standards, so this is entirely legal.

    Then a small town in, say, Oklahoma does the same thing to another 7-11. Ding! RICO kicks in. Suddenly, Southland is engaged in a racketeering pattern of behavior. The fact that the two violations were unintnetional or unrelated doesn't matter. Okay, so what's the big deal? The big deal is that under RICO, the entire assets of the Southland corporation can be seized. And sold. BEFORE TRIAL. WITHOUT ANY RECOURSE. Every 7-11 in America can literally cease operation overnight because two small towns in Bumfuck, Nowhere decided they didn't like a particular magazine. The only other alternative is that 7-11 would have to stop selling the magazine everywhere, because it can't take the risk of having a second violation that would qualify for RICO.

    Anyone who thinks the PATRIOT ACT goes too far should really be far more worried about RICO. It can do far greater damage. There are parts of RICO that are probably a good thing; it certainly makes it easier to take down criminal organizations. But the law needs to be changed if we are going to preserve our freedoms.
    • Very interesting. Didn't realize that RICO was so draconian.

      Another case of lawmakers throwing out the baby with the bathwater, SARBOX comes to mind as well.
    • by moosehooey (953907)
      Once a few of these huge mega-corps get a good fucking-over, maybe they'll start to behave a bit. As it is now, the government lets them do whatever they want. I'd love to see them seize all the assets of Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The thing about your scenario is that the laws defining the so-called "obscenities" contained in FHM would have to be so well defined to single out just FHM alone would go far enough to have the law thrown out. However, if the law were to stand, all magazine distributors would have to do in order to not be sued would be to ask the "community" what they think the recommended age to view FHM should be and simply have the magazine behind the counter like other small, easy to steal, age-restricted merchandise.

      B
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      Good, if normal people can have all of their assests seized and sold before trial, without recourse, why on earth should corporations be immune? Remember, if your son is caught selling a single joint, suddenly your family has illegal income, and therefore all of your assests can be immediatly seized, and there is no recourse. Get rid of it for corporations when it goes away for normal people too.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know that employees of the evil empire (the MS one) have to take an online course (with cool animation) where they learn how you are never never ever supposed to do stuff with data unless the customer has explicitly agreed to it. Everyone at MS has to take the course this year.

    Obviously if they didn't have trouble with their people doing this kind of thing, there would be no such course. Apparently there are even "Privacy Officers" where one can do the appropriate whistle blowing, I doubt many people woul
  • obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by justinlee37 (993373)
    In soviet U.S., service signs up for you!
  • by DavidD_CA (750156)
    From reading so far, and especially from a prior post from a Best Buy employee, it doesn't appear that Microsoft knew that these customers were being signed up without concent.

    It sounds more like Best Buy had an overly agressive internal campaign to refer as many sales as possible to MSN, and did whatever they could to make it happen.

    Is Microsoft guilty if it had no knowledge of this? Further, did Microsoft make it easy for people to cancel the service?

    If Microsoft played fair when someone asked to cancel,
  • in my experience.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by agent0range_ (472103) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:43PM (#19004917)
    I worked in a call center that did support for MSNIA. That was horrible in itself, but I had to deal with people who had anywhere from 2-8 extra accounts that were created each time they went to best buy. Some of the people didn't even have a computer! In one case an elderly lady bought a microwave, which didn't work, then returned for a new one and ended up with 2 dial-up accounts... which she didn't notice for a year! Now that last part is her fault, but I arranged for a full refund because I hate microsoft and their scummy ways.
  • A similar incident happened to the buyer of a cell phone at a Reno Best Buy store, the case says. Microsoft withdrew monthly MSN payments from her debit card account for 17 months without her knowledge or permission, the allegations say.

    How do you not know that you're missing $20 every month for a year and a half? Seriously, look at your bank statements every now and then.
    • How do you not know that you're missing $20 every month for a year and a half? Seriously, look at your bank statements every now and then.

      While that's fine advice, the wisdom of looking at your statements every once in a while does not absolve the illegal biller of their duty not to illegally bill you.

      C//
  • I bought an LCD monitor at Best Buy ... at the checkout they said something about a free trial of MSN being included in the price.

    Six months later MSN billed my card. I called MSN and asked what was going on, they told me that I'd signed up through Best Buy. I said "Oh no I didn't". They canceled the membership and refunded my money.

    Lawsuits going all the way to the supreme court? Sounds like some lawyers getting richer.

  • I've said before that Microsoft could quite viably be charged under RICO for Ballmer's "Nice OS, would be a shame to see anything happen to it," noises towards Linux, and concievably for the Novell deal as well. Protectionism is protectionism, after all.

    People can see the Sherman Act as being anticapitalist if they want, but as far as I'm concerned gangsters on the other hand have no place within a principled economic system. If Ballmer is going to insist on continuing to behave like a gangster, then he s
  • Way more interesting than another bash MS case is the link to the US Cort of Appeals setting up their own wiki. [uscourts.gov] Now we will be seeing reports that the rate of convictions has tripled over the last decade.
  • my wife a had similar problem with BestBuy signing her up for magazines she didn't ask for or want. when they started charging for the "free" subscription, it caused a series of checks to bounce and it turned into one bad domino effect after another.

    she eventually got them canceled, the money refunded, and fees returned, but it was a nightmare.
    it should never have happened.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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