Posted by Randy Gainer
InDouglas v. United States District Court, No. 06-75424, 2007 WL 2069542, at *1-2 (9th Cir. July 18, 2007), the Court held that the terms of a revised online contract were ineffective when a user was not notified of changes when they were made.The Court statedthat the trials court’s decision finding the contract changes were effective “reflects fundamental misapplications of contract law and goes to the heart of petitioner’s claim. . . .” Id.
Although some observers seemed to believe the Douglas decision established new law, it applied long-settled principles, as others recognized. Principles regarding how online agreements may be amended are summarized in Raymond P. Nimmer & Holly K. Towle, Amending or Modifying the Terms, ¶ 8.10 The Law of Electronic Commercial Transactions (2007). Among those principles is that, under the common law of contracts, which generally governs service contracts, there must be an offer, acceptance, and consideration to amend a contract. Id. at *1-2. Douglas simply applied the offer and acceptance rule: a party cannot offer an amendment nor the other party accept the amendment without the offeror providing notice of the change.