Pokémon have taken over the streets in Niantic’s augmented-reality game, Pokémon Go. Niantic’s reinvention of geo-caching has become increasingly popular, with fans ranging from preschool to middle-age. But great popularity is often followed by great controversy. Niantic has caught players of the game in a legal loophole designed to protect Niantic against legal repercussions.
With estimates of over 30 million downloads the game is reaching a new level of success for mobile apps and gaming. Alongside the game’s rise in popularity is a similar trend in incidents, ranging from trespassing and burglary to personal injury and wrongful death. Pokémon Go is a real world game with real world consequences and an arbitration clause to protect it.
Upon download fans are required to accept Niantic’s terms of service and consequently waive their right to participate in both a class action suit or a trial by jury. An arbitration clause is a contract that requires both parties to resolve disputes through an arbitration process. The clause written within Pokémon Go’s terms of service is often overlooked. Niantic’s terms of service states that unless you provide Niantic with an opt-out notice within thirty days “you acknowledge and agree that you are waiving your right to a trial by jury or to participate as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class actions or representative proceedings…”
Keane Law has successfully invalidated numerous arbitration clauses like this one. The law, however, has been trending against consumers over the past few decades. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld arbitration clauses that effectively eliminate consumers’ rights.
What does this mean for the millions of Pokémon Go players? Arbitration will ultimately protect Niantic and limit a consumer’s options for resolving any disputes with the company. The consumer will be forced to use an arbitration company chosen by Niantic, where legal precedent will hold no meaning. Arbitration is without a judge or jury and offers no appeal or public review and is often costly, with a fee needed to initiate the process.
No one wants to think about how things could go wrong, especially when playing a game purely for entertainment. But when something does happen, it may be too late to protect your rights.
Feeling caught? Opt-out while you still can! To retain your rights, you must opt-out within thirty days. you can send an opt-out notice to Niantic at [email protected] or 2 Bryant St. Ste.220, San Francisco, CA 94105.