Tech News: Terms of Service Update Allegedly Locks Roku TVs Until Users Agree

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In recent weeks, if you have a TV with Roku built in, you're likely seeing the a message indicating that you MUST agree to it's updated Terms of Service to continue using YOUR TV. You know, the one you've already purchased and have been using. If you don't, you can't continue using your TV!

Roku offers several products, including standalone streaming devices for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Plex, and others.

They also have partnerships with some TV manufacturers to include its software in those TVs.

Some are calling this behavior disgraceful, with a user on one forum saying:

“So, you buy a product, and you use it. And they want to change the terms limiting your rights, and they basically brick the device ... if you don't accept their new terms. ... I hope they get their comeuppance here, as this is disgraceful.”

According to an article written by Scharon Harding over at Ars Technica, the message on Roku TVs reads:

"We've made an important update: We’ve updated our Dispute Resolution Terms. Select ‘Agree’ to agree to these updated Terms and to continue enjoying our products and services. Press * to view these updated Terms."

A large button reading "Agree" follows. The pop-up doesn't offer a way to disagree, and users are unable to continue using their device unless they hit agree.

Those willing to read Roku’s updated Terms of Service will notice that it says users have, as the Ars Technica article quotes:

"30 days of you first becoming subject to" Roku's updated terms, which was February 20, to opt out. Otherwise, you're opted in automatically.”

If you didn't agree, you can't use your TV, and must send them a letter via snail mail in the hopes they would talk to you before the deadline of 30 days.

So, what are you agreeing to?

To paraphrase the Ars piece, the updates focus on Roku's terms for dispute resolution, which prevent users from suing Roku. The biggest change in the terms is the introduction of a section called "Required Informal Dispute Resolution."

Basically, outside of some exceptions involving intellectual property, and I quote:

“users must make "a good-faith effort" to negotiate with Roku, or vice versa, for at least 45 days before entering arbitration.”

According to ZDNET, the message even popped up for some people using the Roku Streaming Stick.

“it's worth pointing out that plenty of major companies have a similar policy about legal action. You agreed to the same thing if you use Facebook or Reddit, for example. It's also not new for terms to be updated after a product is purchased, as virtually every smart home product updates theirs from time to time. The issue for many simply seems to be that there's no way to opt out. It's either agree or stop using your TV.”

My Take

Having Roku software built into your TV is certainly a convenience. It doesn't require the additional expense of an external device to watch your favorite TV shows and movies.

That said, it's never a good idea to buy a "smart" TV and connect it to the internet to update it or to use the streaming services built into it.

By doing so, you are at the mercy of potential situations like this, not that it should ever be considered acceptable.

Having Roku software built into your TV is certainly a convenience. It doesn't require the additional expense of an external device to watch your favorite TV shows and movies.

That said, it's never a good idea to buy a "smart" TV and connect it to the internet AT ALL to update OR use the streaming services built into the TV. Software built into TVs is often problematic and frustrating, and it’s better not to use it.

By doing so, you are at the mercy of potential situations like this, not that it should ever be considered acceptable.

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Treat your "smart" TV like a regular TV, and connect external devices like a Roku, Apple TV, or other devices to it, and stream content that way. If something happens to affect those individual devices, it won't affect your TV, and you can switch to another external device if needed.

If this happens to you, you can accept the terms, knowing you're likely to never want to sue Roku for any reason.

The best thing to do here is buy an external Roku or other device, reset your TV, and do NOT connect it to the internet. Instead, use an external Roku and plug that into your TV. That won't present you with this message.

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