Nebulous Terms of Services in the Cloud

The Norwegian Consumer Council has analysed the terms of service of cloud storage services. The study reveals that there are there is a lot to be said about the consumer and privacy rights granted to the users.

«Online storage has obvious advantages, but consumers are left with few, if any, rights when using these services. The terms are one-sided and can be changed at the providers’ sole discretions,» Head of Unit Finn Myrstad said.

Unilateral terms

The Consumer Council’s study reveals that:

  • several services can terminate user accounts with no reason
  • several services can change their terms without giving proper notice to users
  • some of the biggest service providers do not clearly state what they do with user data after an account has been terminated
  • the terms are often prohibitively long and difficult to read

Kvinne som sitter på pc. Foto.


«Many international service providers are bypassing and twisting basic contractual principles. This is also reflected in cloud storage services. It is important that consumer rights and privacy also applies to online services,» Myrstad said.

«It should be easy for the consumers to understand the terms of services. They must be reasonably balanced with regards to terminating and amending the terms in a subscription. The Consumer Council’s study shows that this is not the case today,» the Norwegian Minister of Consumer Affairs Solveig Horne said.

Increasing popularity

In a survey conducted on behalf of the Consumer Council in Norway, 40% stated that they use cloud storage services, an increase from 30% in 2012. Among those who do not use cloud storage, fear of losing control of uploaded data (27%) and personal information (19%) were among the most important reasons.

«Cloud storage services rely on users’ trust and confidence. However, the current terms undermine this. We are convinced that all parties are better served with more user friendly terms of service,» Myrstad said.

The Consumer Council will work with the industry to implement better terms that ensure more secure and consumer friendly cloud services. «It is important that the Consumer Council works with the industry to agree to common principles as soon as possible,» Horne said.

The Norwegian Consumer Council will, through its European umbrella organisation (BEUC), actively contribute to the work on fair and safe terms for cloud computing contracts, conducted by the EU Expert Group on Cloud Computing.