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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, Locked into VLE agreement in Technical; I have a school who seem to be locked into subscribing to a VLE for another year that they do ...
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    Locked into VLE agreement

    I have a school who seem to be locked into subscribing to a VLE for another year that they do not want to.

    They were sent an E-Mail reminding them their subscription would expire on 31/3/12, 52 days before it would expire. Nothing was mentioned about having to contact them if they no longer wished to subscribe for another year before this.

    Because of this they thought if they did not renew the subscription when it expired, the service would terminate.

    However in the small T&Cs of the agreement which was referred to on the original order/subscription, it mentions the agreement can only be terminated by giving 60 days written notice prior to the anniversary date, so it seems the agreement never ends and the subscription has to be renewed.

    I just wondered if anyone else has had a similar situation and other peoples views and thought on this.

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    Michael's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure a new law was passed quite recently - mostly aimed at mobile phone contract providers. They're not allowed to simply renew or extend your contract anymore. In theory, the same law would apply to your situation.

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    Any specific details of that Law would be appreciated, as I can't find it, although there is no contract involved. Just an agreement and a subscription.

    I did find this:
    Automatic renewal I signed a 12 month contract (for a listing/ad - JustAnswer
    Which is a similar sounding problem, and does not help my situation.

    Just to add to this there is also an item which states if they revise the agreement and you continue to use the service when the new agreement comes into force, this means you have accepted the new agreement.

    To confirm, this is for a major VLE used by many. I can understand a company wanting to keep its customers, but this seems a tad extreme.

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    Just found it: Gradwell Blog » Blog Archive » Ofcom bans automatic contract renewals

    Looks like it is only for Offcom though for broadband and fixed line services, rather than a UK Law for all products and services.

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    Michael's Avatar
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    Surely then if you have no written and signed contract you can just leave whenever. An agreement isn't the same as a contract.

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    I will try and see what's been signed, but surely the T&Cs must have some standing, otherwise the company would not have gone through all the effort to write them and enforce them so strictly.

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    This is a tricky one. Note I am not any sort of legal expert and this is just my understanding of the law which may be completely incorrect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael View Post
    I'm pretty sure a new law was passed quite recently - mostly aimed at mobile phone contract providers. They're not allowed to simply renew or extend your contract anymore. In theory, the same law would apply to your situation.
    As you pointed out in another post, this is a specific case. However, in general there is a world of difference between consumer and business law. Consumers have far more rights than businesses as far as contract law is concerned, e.g. the 7 day cooling off/right to return period doesn't apply to businesses. I know that schools (in general) aren't businesses, but I imagine that in the eyes of the law they are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael View Post
    Surely then if you have no written and signed contract you can just leave whenever. An agreement isn't the same as a contract.
    An oral contract (sometimes referred to as a verbal contract) is just as binding as a written contract. The main problem with them is proving that they exist i.e that there was an agreement, however if you have paid for a service, it is highly indicative that a contract was entered into.

    Leaving ethics aside in the discussion, ultimately the only way to definitively answer it is to go to court.

    I would suggest talking to the provider as a first step. Don't forget the contracts are written by lawyers and are designed to cover them for the worst case scenario. The renewal process will also be run by back office staff as will be designed to cover the 'normal' situation where customers just continue as this is the most efficient way of running the process. If you speak to the right people, you may get the answer you want. Whatever you do, don't threaten them, for example, blackening their name, as that could land you personally and the school in all sorts of trouble - I note that you have avoided naming them so far.

    If you don't get the answer you want from talking to them, I can see 4 options:
    1. Talk to a lawyer. Potentially costly and ultimately only their informed opinion. Only a court can be definitive.
    2. Refuse to pay and hope they back down for the sake of their reputation.
    3. Pay up and use it as a learning experience.
    4. Use the application for the next year to try to salvage something from it.


    Whatever you do, don't rely on information from random people posting their opinions on forums!!! Any advice is only as good as you pay for (and their insurance covers) and this post is free advice!

    Good luck,
    Richard

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommodoreS View Post
    However in the small T&Cs of the agreement which was referred to on the original order/subscription, it mentions the agreement can only be terminated by giving 60 days written notice prior to the anniversary date, so it seems the agreement never ends and the subscription has to be renewed.
    Worthwhile checking the T&Cs again to see what requirements, if any, the company have to inform you of the end of the subscription period. If they haven't followed them, then I imagine that they would have trouble enforcing the rest of the T&Cs.

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    Thanks for the info.

    The only requirement is to inform the school at least 30 days before the subscription is due to renew to tell them how much it will cost for the next year. There is no requirement for them to contact the school 60 or more days beforehand to inform them the subscription is expiring and find out if they do not want to renew the subscription, so the school has to remember this 9 to 10 months after use and 2 months before the subscription expires.

    There is also a section which says they will suspend or end the service after non payment, but a section before that which states they will charge interest on late and overdue payments.

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    Just to follow up after seeking further advice I believe the school has decided to use the VLE for another year.

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    TheLibrarian
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    Has the school notified said VLE provider that they wish to cancel the subscription in plenty of time for the next anniversary?

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    I'd phoned up and say that we cancel and will not pay any invoices. It too costly for companies to chase up these bills and isn't good PR either. I did this with a company that did a terrible install of my VPN. I rang up and said that I refuse to pay for their cruddy service and they should come back and collect their hardware.

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    I've just run into the same situation at a load of my schools, and looks like there's no way round it other than cancelling now so they don't auto-renew next year!

    The one I'm talking about is Digital Brain - in case anyone else is using them and looking to change next year...

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    Cancel the contract now, the company will be only too happy to sell you another contract next year if you choose to use it!

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    I am unsure what other actions have been taken as it is now in the hands of the ict leader. What I do know is that all other schools in the cluster have been contacted to check their service agreements. It would appear that most agreements are very similar and I wonder if they are all copying each other.



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