Time for software suppliers to eliminate sharp practices

20 August 1998: The next step in our campaign to stop suppliers from exploiting users is to get suppliers to sign up to our Software Licence Code, writes Ian Mitchell.

20 August 1998: The next step in our campaign to stop suppliers from exploiting users is to get suppliers to sign up to our Software Licence Code, writes Ian Mitchell.

Computer Weekly's Stamp Out Stiffing campaign was born from a combination of complaints from users about unreasonable demands from suppliers and an acknowledgement from one major supplier that some of its industry colleagues were strong-arming customers.

Earlier this year we reported that IBM had lifted the lid on 10 shady practices in common use by companies in the UK centred on software licensing.

The software giant painted a picture of greedy suppliers waiting for users to vary the way they operated so it could argue that the terms of the licence had altered – and then charge a hefty fee for in reality doing nothing.

Our report had a dramatic effect with numerous users coming forward to say that they had been the victim of such practices.

This response led Computer Weekly to draw up with the help of top law firm Hammond Suddards the Software Licence Code, an abridged version.

This is an attempt to ensure that users and suppliers are both fully aware of what they are agreeing to when they sign a licence and to prevent misunderstandings as to charges and the restrictions on the use of software.

Our Software Licence Code states that it is the responsibility of a software supplier to charge increased licence and maintenance fees only where it is fair and reasonable to do so.

For example where a change in the use of the software causes additional costs or where the user gets significant benefit from such change in use.

Computer Weekly has already secured the support of bodies representing both suppliers and users who describe the code as equitable and a major step forward.

The aim of our Stamp Out Stiffing campaign is to get the top 10 suppliers to agree to abide by the code. Thus they will demonstrate clearly to their customers and the general public that they are not trying to make increased profits unfairly.

Those suppliers who sign up to the code will be showing that they are in this business to supply a fair service to users and are not interested in boosting their profits by acting unreasonably.

However the code is not a legal document and its terms will not be enforceable in the courts.

But those suppliers who agree to abide by it and subsequently are found to be taking advantage of users can expect to be unmasked within Computer Weekly.

Many suppliers have publicly through the pages of Computer Weekly decried the sharp practices we have reported on and which the code seeks to end.

Now is the time for them to back these words by signing up to it.

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