What does it take to play Pokemon Go, the new game released by Niantic last week that already has an estimated 10 million active users? The answer: A smartphone and a willingness to surrender one of your Seventh Amendment rights.
Before customers are allowed to access the reality-based game, they must agree to waive their Constitutional right to a jury trial should something go wrong. These agreements, called arbitration agreements, or, less formally, “rip-off clauses,” are already widely used by banks, internet providers, and other industries to strip customers of their right to sue.
Instead of seeking a remedy through the court system, consumers are forced to take their claim to a private arbitration firm chosen by the company, where they will be effectively powerless to present evidence or appeal an unjust decision.
Studies show that most consumer complaints forced into arbitration are resolved in the corporate defendant’s favor, effectively fulfilling the purpose of these subtly sinister fine-print agreements.
As an editorial in the New York Daily News points out, little is likely to go wrong playing the mobile game, which overlays Pokémon characters on top of a real-life grid powered by Google Maps. But just because risks are low doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
“The game has been out less than a week and it’s already been linked to security risks, an armed robbery, and a dead body,” the NY Daily News explains. But since that editorial was published on July 12, a number of other Pokémon-Go-related accidents have been reported, including the two men who toppled several stories off a cliff in San Diego while in pursuit of a Pokémon.
There’s also the possibility of a data breach, which could expose users of the game app to having their personal information stolen for malicious purposes.
According to the NY Daily News, players may be able to opt out of Niantic’s arbitration agreement by emailing the company at firstname.lastname@example.org with an opt-out request within 30 days of downloading the game.