UK government report advocates fairer terms for cloud storage users

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Around 30% of UK adults use cloud storage in a personal capacity, according to a report released today by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – but the governing body notes concerns over some vendor practices which conflict with consumer law.

The report, which can be found in full here at a whopping 218 pages, shares concerns, such as companies being able to change the terms of a contract at any time, for any reason, and without notice, suspending or terminating a contract without notice, and automatically renewing contracts without giving notice or withdrawal rights, as key. Dixons Carphone, JustCloud and Livedrive have committed to providing fairer terms and conditions for their customers as a result of the report’s findings.

“In this rapidly-developing market, it’s important that we act now to ensure that businesses comply with the law and that consumers’ trust in these valuable services is maintained,” said Nisha Arora, CMA senior consumer director in a statement. “We welcome the fact that a number of companies have already agreed to change their terms, and expect to see improvements from other companies.”

The report uncovered some interesting statistics; currently almost 80% of consumers surveyed do not pay for their cloud storage, while in the UK 2.5 billion gigabytes of data is being created in real time every day. The most popular file type uploaded to the cloud is photos (71%), followed by self-created personal documents (32%), music (29%), and personal documents which had been sent to them (23%).

The researchers also argue the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will take effect in less than two years, will “inevitably” have implications for the cloud storage services sector. Among the proposals outlined under the GDPR include users’ right to know if their data has been hacked, as well as greater enforcement of the ‘right to be forgotten’.

Ian Moyse, a board member of both Eurocloud UK and the Cloud Industry Forum, cites greater awareness of the GDPR as a tipping point. “Transparency and trust in cloud is going to become ever more important as the customer/consumer becomes more informed and educated on the sector and expects more,” he tells CloudTech.

“Also, as awareness, understanding and pressure comes from the combination of the new GDPR and Privacy Shield requirements on business and provider, the demands on having an understandable, clear and transparent service offering in relation to data protection [and] sovereignty, security, SLAs and offboarding processes will have mounting pressure from the industry, regulations, and the customer,” he added. “Cloud is entering the growing up phase and this will benefit the industry as a whole, not just the customer.”

In addition, the CMA has published an open letter for businesses which advises them to review their terms to ensure they are fair, as well as insist consumers get all the information they need before they buy. “If you are a cloud storage business that deals with consumers, you must ensure that your contract terms are fair and that they comply with consumer protection law,” the letter warns.

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