I just love stories like this and it is the silly season after all so here's a story to make you chuckle for the end of the weekend. A man known as David Stebbins from Arkansas has filed a motion in Seattle against Microsoft claiming that they owe him half a billion dollars.
The claim comes from an attempt he made to change the terms of his Xbox live contract. On May 6th this year he sent a message to Microsoft saying that he was "unilaterally amending the terms of service" of his contract. His claim was that if Microsoft did not cancel his contract within 10 days it would have to accept his new terms.
The reason for this is seemingly to get back at the company for introducing new terms and conditions for customers on a periodic basis, a practice that is very common in modern business. When this happens if the customer doesn't respond, which nobody ever does, it is assumed they have accepted the terms.
In his new terms he introduced a "forfeit victory clause" in which Microsoft would have to pay him $500 billion dollars in damages in it didn't respond within 24 hours of the 'new' contract taking effect.
This is not the first time that Stebbings has tried to pull a fast one. The Seattle PI, which broke the story, did a search on the US federal legal database and found "more than a dozen claims within the past year. In some of them, he alleged discrimination by companies - including Walmart - that refused to hire him...Many of the cases were quickly dismissed."
His claim has very little chance of ever being heard by a court and I very much doubt that Microsoft's lawyers will be worried in the slightest.
When Seattle PI asked Stebbins why he was bothering, or words to that effect, he told them "My true goal is not to just harass, and it’s not just to get rich. My true goal is to level the playing field. I’m trying to give employees, consumers, and generally, people who’ve been economically disadvantaged a new, powerful tool to protect themselves. Who needs to go crying to Congress for more workers’ rights and consumer protection laws?! We can do it all ourselves! How’s that for a motive you can get behind?!”
Stebbins wouldn't be the first person on the planet to be fed up with big business, only two days ago I wrote an article here on gHacks asking if "Patent Tennis", the gentle art of companies slinging patent lawsuits back and forth that is slowly eroding consumer choice, hasn't already gone too far. After the global economic downturn it's understandable that many people will be resentful of companies that make enormous profits when others are struggling to find work or pay the mortgage.
However while some might consider his attempt valiant, others would more likely consider him foolish, especially in a statement he made when asked if he would be submitting full documents to a court. He scornfully replied that he "will not be presenting any exhibits in paper format. To do so would put an undue strain on my printer."
According to Seattle PI the Xbox Live contract doesn't say it can't be amended by a customer, though this is unlikely to get him anywhere. Microsoft's lawyers normally have every angle covered, and then some (believe me, I've worked with them and they can be a right pain for this!)
Stebbins admitted though that it was probably unlikely that the expansive legal department at Microsoft HQ in Redmond would even have seen his claim, saying “I mean, think about it: When I mail these documents to Microsoft, they won’t go to any legal division; I arranged for the mailings to be picked up by the employee that just collects regular mail! It’s quite possible that these employees won’t understand the legal significance of these documents, and know that they’re required to respond.”
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.