May 5, 2021
The way we consume entertainment has changed drastically over just a few years. From increased cord-cutting, focusing on online services, and updated ways to listen and purchase music, it’s pretty clear that we’re living in a digital age that can’t be turned back.
Websites and streaming apps have become the new norm for entertainment consumption, with streaming giant Spotify, along with iTunes, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu, being the most popular choices for consumers.
However, trouble has arisen for iTunes, as it’s in danger of facing a putative class action for including a “Buy” button for media in the iTunes Store. The issue? Even after you “buy” the media, Apple reserves the right to terminate your access if that piece of content is no longer offered on their platform. This is clear deception that the lead plaintiff, David Andino, is claiming.
Unreasonable Customers or Deceitful Practice?
Andino’s main complaint isn’t about the possibility of sustaining injuries from Apple’s policy (such as being denied access to a purchased song or TV show)—it’s about the misleading nature of this feature, which makes him believe he has permanent ownership after buying media on the platform. Had he been made aware of the true ownership properties of purchasing an item, he (and many other users) may have chosen not to buy it.
You might be aware of a similar lawsuit Amazon was served in April 2020. Adding to its list of shady business practices, like its fake reviews issue and maltreatment of employees, the company was accused of the same type of deception as iTunes with Prime Video purchases. Amazon responded to the accusation by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, pointing out that its Terms and Conditions included a clause stating buyers obtained a “limited license to view video content.” Talk about generating a good Terms page! However, that case is still ongoing.
In response to their potential lawsuit, Apple stated that “no reasonable consumer” would assume permanent ownership of any purchased media. However, U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez expressed disagreement with the statement, saying, “In common usage, the term ‘buy’ means to acquire possession over something. It seems plausible, at least at the motion to dismiss stage, that reasonable consumers would expect their access couldn’t be revoked.”
Apple’s motion to dismiss was rejected, leaving the case open to injunction. If the lawsuit goes through—and huge companies such as Apple and Amazon lose their cases—it will signal a turning point for the way content is sold and advertised, making way for heightened transparency between services and consumers.