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Consumer group irate about Software Licences

The UK's National Consumer Council (opens in new tab) wants the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the End User Licence Agreements or EULAs from a number of software companies.

The NCC scrutinised EULAs from 25 software packages and said that in 17 of them the packaging did not tell interested buyers that they would have to sign an EULA in order to use the application.

Companies which have come under scrutiny include Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe, which are amongst the biggest software companies around.

According to the NCC, software companies were misleading companies into signing away their legal rights via EULAs Proxy, something that has come under fire thanks to the growing number of spyware/malware infested applications (opens in new tab) that hide behind their EULAs.

EULAs are often long legal documents embedded in the installation process that one has to agree to before proceeding with the rest of the installation routine; if you do not agree to the EULA, the software installation terminates.

Worryingly, computer manufacturers like Dell are also joining up the gang of EULAs dispensers; new Dell laptops that come with Windows Vista for example require that you agree to Microsoft's EULA's before giving you the right to use your newly acquired laptop.

Furthermore, the EULAs are often written for certain countries only without taking into consideration other jurisdictions (opens in new tab); McAfee was the only manufacturer which asked for the user location.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.