The Fine Print in Consignment Software

"What's in the fine print?
The answers are an indication of what to expect."

Company Policy Provisions

Typically in the process of installing software, a screen will appear displaying the 'End-User License Agreement' (EULA) which you agree to by installing the software. It's important to know the contents of the agreement because 1) The provisions are legally enforceable, and 2) it's a good place to stuff those 'terms and conditions' that you might find objectionable.

Let's dig up those unfavorable terms and bring them out here where we can see them clearly.

Software vendors may change their provisions over time as anti-selection against the consumer becomes more exposed and consumers become more informed. A typical pattern over the past decade has been that 1) vendors change the rules to benefit them, 2) the changes get publicity, 3) bad policies go away - or they remain if the damage from exposure is manageable.

Software Ownership and Transferability

Most software is sold as a license to use the software only. There is no ownership so there is no equity or resale value. Users are essentially renting the software and it's sayonara to all money paid.

One vendor says his software can be sold but places restrictions on the sale which can't be to just anyone. It has to be to the person buying the shop and in order to qualify, the new owner must continue to use the same shop name, address and phone number (which of course rarely happens, and which really prevents most people from reselling the software). This 'policy' allows the vendor to say 'yes' when asked if his software can be sold, and gives him the opportunity to avoid telling the truth.

A fair shake for the consumer is to grant ownership of the copy of the software purchased with resale rights, just like the big boys do it. (When you buy a copy of MS Windows, it belongs to you. A registration code is issued as proof of ownership. The program and the code can be sold to another without sticky conditions like those above.)

Questions to ask: "Can I resell your software and are there any limiting conditions?"

Annual Service Fees

This is covered in more detail in another section but there are a couple of sticklers that deserve pruning here:

Support Provisions

Any idea for providing support or making more/less money for the company with policy provisions related to support are possible and so it is that the number of if's, and's or but's are numerous:

It's abundantly apparent that purchasing software may be nothing more than a down payment on the amount you will be forced to spend to continue to use the software, keep it in good working order and up to date with changing technology.

Once you step into fee-based software, you're stuck, not only with the known fees and amounts of today, but the increases that are sure to follow once you're locked in.

The ideal situation is that you are given choices and control over your costs for support. One vendor provides support for free via email. Any 'bug fixes' are free. There's an option to enlist someone's help by phone or remote-PC access and the charge is half that of predators preying on shop owners.

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