The ToS Death Penalty

Today on the Consumerist, a reader writes to complain of the ToS Death Penalty – a draconian punishment for purported ToS violations that is becoming all too common. The ToS Death Penalty is the seemingly arbitrary execution of a user’s online account with a company, with no explanation of what actually happened and without right of appeal.

In this case, a user lost not only his primary email address and cloud storage, but also access to Windows Live games that he had paid for. From Microsoft’s response:

“I’m happy to assist you with your concern that you could not access your email account.

Please be informed that we have reviewed your account and determined that it was closed due to violation of our Terms of Use.

We are not able to discuss the specific details of your account closure. To read Microsoft Services Agreement and learn about the code of conduct, please visit:”

Microsoft isn’t the only bad guy here. Steam has been known to kill users’ accounts without recourse. Same for Amazon.

The ToS Death Penalty is becoming increasing problematic as more and more of our lives are being moved into the cloud. This is especially true when a single account spans multiple services, and violations of the terms of one service could result in the termination of all your account as a whole.

Cheating in Medal of Honor should get you banned from the game for a few days. It shouldn’t cost you your email account and cloud documents. The ToS Death Penalty must be abolished.

One response to “The ToS Death Penalty”

  1. Tyler Dennis

    How to balance our freedom to contract with the changing world? If you don’t like the terms of service, don’t sign on to them? I don’t think this mentality will last much longer. Certainly other jurisdictions we’ve heard about have legislated against contracts holding such unfair terms to consumers. Wonderfully put though. Abolish the ToS death penalty – classic.