The Second Circuit issued a decision of interest to every company that utilizes a mobile app to interact with its customers. In Meyer v. Kalanick, the court enforced the mandatory arbitration provision in the Uber app. The court considered the app from the perspective of a “reasonably prudent smartphone user” and discussed parameters supporting enforceability of contract terms for mobile apps. The Second Circuit enforced the arbitration provision because the Uber app gave the user reasonably conspicuous notice of the Terms of Service (which included the arbitration provision), and the user gave unambiguous (albeit not express) consent to arbitration in light of the objectively reasonable notice of the terms.
The court explained that a reasonably prudent smartphone user would understand that text that is highlighted in blue and underlined is hyperlinked to another webpage with additional information, and found the screen design and text reasonably conspicuous, thus giving the user constructive notice of its terms. The court also described the payment screen and Terms of Service as “temporally coupled” because Uber provides the Terms of Service during enrollment. The court concluded that “a reasonably prudent smartphone user would understand that the terms were connected to the creation of a user account.”
The court distinguished the Uber screen from the Amazon screen in Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., because the Nicosia screen contained much more information and several buttons, and the notice of terms and conditions was not adjacent to the consent button: “This presentation differs sharply from the screen we considered in Nicosia, which contained, among other things, summaries of the user’s purchase and delivery information, ‘between fifteen and twenty-five links,’ ‘text . . . in at least four font sizes and six colors,’ and several buttons and advertisements. Nicosia, 834 F.3d at 236-37. Furthermore, the notice of the terms and conditions in Nicosia was ‘not directly adjacent’ to the button intended to manifest assent to the terms, unlike the text and button at issue here. Id. at 236.”
The Uber app decision provides useful guideposts for designing user interfaces for smartphone apps that include contractual terms, such as arbitration clauses: (1) implement a simple design with minimal text and few buttons; (2) ensure the visibility of the entire screen, including the hyperlink to the contract terms, without scrolling; (3) expressly warn that by creating an account, the user is agreeing to be bound by the linked terms; and (4) require agreement to the contract terms during enrollment (ideally before completing enrollment, but not later than simultaneously with enrollment). Although the Uber app did not do so, smartphone apps can also require the user to scroll through the governing terms and conditions before accepting them to further support enforceability of those terms and conditions.