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VTech's changes to T&Cs may be unpopular, but they are within the law

View profile for Heather Roberts
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VTechs changes to T&Cs may be unpopular, but they are within the law

Barely two months on from suffering a significant data breach, the toy giant Vtech - best known for manufacturing digital devices for children - is back in the news and at the centre of a public relations storm.

In December of last year, the company came under attack from hackers who compromised the personal information an estimated six million children, including including names, dates of birth, details of gender, images of children and even and audio recordings. 

At the time, the company's response to the attack, and it's perceived lack of action to protect customer data, was widely criticised with cybersecurity experts labelling VTech's practices 'unforgivable'.

Now, VTech is once again under fire for making significant changes to its terms and conditions, which govern the company's rights and responsibilities in relation to its products and its customers. The new clauses have distanced VTech from any liability for future data breaches, placing the responsibility for loss of personal data with the parents who give their child a VTech device. As such, customers would be unable to hold VTech accountable for, or take legal action as a result of any instances where data is transferred to third parties, regardless of how appropriate the company's cybersecurity measures are perceived to be.

While existing VTech customers can refuse to accept these new terms and conditions, failing to do so can severely affect the functionality of any products they may have, restricting certain features and barring them from access to certain services.

Given the public outcry over VTech's response to the initial data breach, this latest development has created greater tension between the company and its customers with some calling for a boycott of VTech products and services.

Despite the understandable backlash, unfortunately - from a legal perspective - VTech is acting entirely within the restrictions of consumer law and is entitled to amend their terms and conditions as they see fit.

While this may come as unwelcome news to customers, it may, for some, reinforce the calls for a parents to boycott the company and its products, with the intention to affect VTech's 'bottom line' and force the company to rethink its strategy. Such measures are entirely within prospective customers power, and while consumer legislation may be unable to provide protection for those affected - in this instance at least - buyer power remains a significant tool for consumers to bring about change, even from multinational, million-dollar companies.

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