“Roku Enforces Forced Arbitration: No Access to TVs or Streaming Devices Without User Consent”

Roku users around the country turned on their TVs this week to find an unpleasant surprise: the company required them to consent to an arbitration agreement in order to access their device. Users (at least, this user) received an email the day before saying that “we have made changes to our Dispute Resolution Terms, which describe how you can resolve disputes with Roku. We encourage you to read the updated Dispute Resolution Terms. But there really is something rather despicable about totally disabling a user’s device until they agree, and having basically anything the user does count as agreement. Don’t delay or, when people sue them over how they held devices hostage in order to coerce them into consumer-hostile dispute resolution terms, you won’t be able to join in on the fun.

Roku users around the country turned on their TVs this week to find an unpleasant surprise: the company required them to consent to an arbitration agreement in order to access their device. The devices are unusable until the user agrees.

Users (at least, this user) received an email the day before saying that “we have made changes to our Dispute Resolution Terms, which describe how you can resolve disputes with Roku. We encourage you to read the updated Dispute Resolution Terms. By continuing to use our products or services, you are agreeing to these updated terms.”

The “update,” of course, includes a forced arbitration agreement that prevents the user from suing or taking part in lawsuits against Roku. It’s common these days as a way of limiting liability, and users often have little or no recourse. They only find out later, when the company does something heinous and consequences are negligible. Tech companies love this one dirty trick to save millions!

I try to opt out of these when I can, and after reading the terms (of course, by “continuing to use” my TV I had already agreed) I found that you could only do so by mailing a written notice to their lawyers — something I fully intended to do today.

  1. Name of person opting out
  2. Contact information (address and phone number, probably)
  3. Email used to register Roku account if applicable
  4. Product model, software, or service “at issue” — for example, your TV or streaming stick’s model number. May as well list Roku OS as well.
  5. If you have a receipt, you can include it but it isn’t necessary, apparently

As of right now I am bound by this new agreement. I’ll still be opting out, and you should too — but you’ll have to move fast. You can only do so within 30 days of the new terms coming into force upon you. So grab a pen and paper and jot down the following information:

Name of person opting out
Contact information (address and phone number, probably)
Email used to register Roku account if applicable
Product model, software, or service “at issue” — for example, your TV or streaming stick’s model number. May as well list Roku OS as well.
If you have a receipt, you can include it but it isn’t necessary, apparently

Even though they already have that. Stick that in an envelope and send it to…

Stephen Kay, General Counsel, Roku, Inc.
1701 Junction Court, Suite 100
San Jose, CA 95112

Thanks in advance, Stephen. Though in retrospect I, and also literally every single user of your company’s services, would have preferred a straightforward electronic opt-out instead of this dishonest ploy to increase friction and further coerce adoption of these terms.

Don’t delay or, when people sue them over how they held devices hostage in order to coerce them into consumer-hostile dispute resolution terms, you won’t be able to join in on the fun. It’ll just be the 35 or so of us who still have pens, paper, and envelopes in easy reach who will reap the benefits.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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