Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chapman v. Skype (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 4, 2013)

We had a "California snow day" at work today.  Normally that'd be an earthquake.  But today it was because the University of San Diego was without electricity.  So classes were cancelled until 2:30 p.m.  Which meant that professors who (like me) had classes at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. got to go home early.  Woot!

Of course, it also meant that I could do virtually nothing of substance at the office.  No lights.  No computer.  No internet.  No e-mail.  Nothing but natural light and the solitude of one's own thoughts.  So I cleaned my office.  Then went home.

The Ninth Circuit may have had a similar experience.  Since they didn't publish anything today either.

But at least the California Court of Appeal did a little work.

Reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeal holds that, yes, it may well be deceptive for Skype to advertise that it offers "unlimited" calls to the U.S. and Canada (as well as elsewhere) when, in fact, these services are manifestly limited to six hours a day, fifty numbers per day, ten thousand minutes a month, etc.

I'm fairly surprised that the trial court held otherwise.  So am glad to see the Court of Appeal reverse.

Sure, Skype drops a footnote when it says "Unlimited" that says that "a fair use program" applies to the service.  But you've got to then click on yet another page to find out that the "fair use" policy turns the "Unlimited" program into a clearly "Limited" program.

That's not fair.  Or at least a reasonable juror could so find. And I think that's exactly right.

Skype could easily have called it a "Virtually Unlimited" program.  But you and I know full well why it didn't do so.  Because that accurate description is less compelling than the one it elected to employ.

So this putative class action gets to go forward for now.