“I accept” on the internet
By Jerome Veldsman
Ward v Netbet (Pty) Ltd t/a Sportingbet, a judgment of the High Court, Cape Town on 20 November 2017, dealt with an internet gambler on horse racing placing a tick in the box next to “I accept” without reading the terms and conditions.
On 31 October 2014, Mr Ward ventured R100 on a bet that a specific eight horses would win eight different races run at two different venues on such day. The betting slip reflected a total possible payment of R4 841 728.28 should the specific eight horses actually win. But just below that it was stated on the betting slip that winnings were restricted to R1 000 000 per bet.
31 October 2014 was a particularly lucky day for Ward: the specific eight horses actually won. Sportingbet paid the R1 000 000 to Ward, but no more, as the terms and conditions restricted winnings to R1 000 000 per bet. Ward sued.
Ward had some fancy arguments, but to no avail:
“When opening the account, [Ward] was required to sign his assent to the terms and conditions of [Sportingbet] by placing a tick in a box indicating that he agreed to those terms and conditions. They were at all material times available to be inspected on the website of [Sportingbet] simply by clicking on an icon.
When signing the document by placing an electronic tick in the box, [Ward] placed himself in the same position as a person who had physically signed the document. He is bound by the maxim caveat subscriptor, whether or not he actually took the trouble to read the terms or not.”
The Latin term “caveat subscriptor” is loosely translated as “let the signatory beware“.
Surprisingly, Ward’s fancy arguments did not include reliance on the Consumer Protection Act. But even that would probably not have succeeded. However, “I accept” on the internet is open to abuse, and this case may well not be the last word on the matter.