Reading the comments on the Dropbox blog, you would think this was the most devious, anti-consumer thing the company could have done. But while these arguments have facial appeal (“THEY’RE CUTTING OFF MY CHANCE TO BE HEARD IN COURT!!”), they don’t acknowledge the reality of the situation.
Consider: the vast majority of consumer Dropbox users don’t pay Dropbox ANYTHING. They’re using a free service. And the rest of them aren’t paying much; maybe a few hundred dollars a year, at most.
Why is this important? Because it means that most consumers will have little-to-no damages in any suit against Dropbox. Like, little enough that it wouldn’t justify paying the filing fee in small claims court (typically $100-$200), let alone dealing with the time and expense of a full-blown case.
Dropbox is offering a free, expedited means of getting such claims resolved. While many argue that the arbitrators will be biased toward Dropbox as the company is paying the bills, in my (20+ years) experience this is not a real concern. Or at most it’s an edge case, a minimal risk compared to the crap shoot you’ll get in small claims court. But more importantly, it’s a very minor concern compared to the fact that the Dropbox arbitration procedure removes the cost and friction that would leave most small, legitimate claims stillborn.
And another point on that friction: Dropbox allows users to bring the arbitration in whatever county the user lives or works. The typical website TOU – which you almost never hear objections about – will contain a forum selection clause requiring that all claims against the company be brought wherever the company is headquartered. Such provisions are routinely upheld (and make a world of sense from the company perspective).
Dropbox COULD have said, “fine – you got a claim? You can have your day in court. In San Francisco.” Instead, they’ve set up a process that makes it far easier for the vast majority of consumers to have claims addressed.
Yet predictably, they’re getting abused for it.