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Porsche Macan v BMW X4Comparison review

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Spending $100,000 on an SUV is becoming an increasingly common occurrence in Australia, but never before has there been so much choice, particularly if the ‘S’ in SUV means anything to you.

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Over the years the term SUV has been poorly diluted. Most modern ‘soft-roaders’ are not only allergic to dirt, but have as many sporting credentials as Joe Hockey in a gymnasium.

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At the other end of the scale, there’s the new Porsche Macan and BMW X4 to take on the existing Range Rover Evoque and Audi SQ5. All four SUVs are all-wheel drive and showcase just how good an SUV can be for the driving enthusiast in all of us.

Putting aside the Range Rover Evoque as it’s cheaper and four-cylinder only, and Audi’s SQ5 as it’s diesel only, we’re pitting a Porsche Macan S petrol against a top-spec BMW X4, the 35i.

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From the outside it’s hard to argue which looks less polarising. The X4 looks odd in the flesh, with a peculiar shape that highlights its SUV-wannabe-coupe shape, unfairly emphasising the large gaps between tyre and wheel arches while failing to portray the same beefiness of its X6 bigger brother.

The Macan on the other hand is gorgeous from the rear, stealing the 911’s tail-lights while keeping the same company front-end that seems to be locked in a time capsule with no room for change. Looks are subjective but we’d comfortably tip it in the Macan’s favour.

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Interestingly, the BMW X4 35i is priced at $87,430 while the Porsche Macan S comes in at $86,700. Both cars actually have a semi-reasonable set of standard features considering their ancestral preference for mile-long option lists.

Our Macan S test car was equipped with some options that we could do without, such as a panoramic roof ($3790), side skirts ($1920) and black roof rails ($750).

Meanwhile, 20-inch wheels ($2710), Sport Chrono package ($2690), aluminium interior package ($2480), front heated seats ($890), upgraded leather seats ($3720) and three-zone climate control ($830) are all worthwhile if not necessary.

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On the BMW front, the X4 35i gains the M Sport kit for nicht, which includes 20-inch M light alloy wheels, aluminium interior finishes, M steering wheel and a bunch of other things that help justify its slightly higher starting price.

Nonetheless, our X4 35i was still loaded with a sunroof ($2920), driving assistant ($900), internet connectivity ($200), head-up display ($2000), digital radio tuner ($800) and ConnectedDrive Freedom ($1200).

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Side by side, the two cars may appear close for standard specification, where it counts, but look deeper and things starts to look a little one-sided.

Both are equipped with satellite navigation, which the BMW wins hands down thanks to its 8.8-inch high-tech iDrive system against the ancient-looking 7.0-inch system in the Porsche. Meanwhile, the 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system in the X4 also outguns the standard 11-speaker system in the Macan (which you can of course upgrade to a Burmester sound system for a mere $11,590, if you must).

It’s unfortunate that nearly $4K is required to rid the Macan of its ‘partial-leather seats’ for something more substantial, a standard feature on the X4. In fact, the list of options on the Macan are eye-watering at best, though you can individualise your Porsche to the point of making it one-of-a-kind in the world.

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Still, it’s hard to ignore optional items such as Porsche’s ‘Entry & Drive’ (keyless entry and start), at $1690, another feature that is standard on the X4 35i and really should be standard on any $100K model.

No doubt then, that Porsche loses out when it comes to standard features. But then again, we are ignoring the badge here, and subjectively how much is that Porsche badge worth compared with a BMW?

More importantly, there’s little point in arguing about the difference in standard features – particularly on the inside – when the contrast between the two SUV’s interior fit and finish is so staggeringly in the Macan’s favour.

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The Porsche’s interior is essentially that of a 911 for less than half the price, while the X4 is hard to distinguish from a 1 Series. It’s here that you’re best to remember that the Macan is the cheapest Porsche you can buy, which means it shares plenty of parts with its more expensive cousins (as well as its Audi Q5 donor), while the X4 is essentially an X3 in coupe form (which itself is based on previous-generation BMW 3 Series platform).

Where the Porsche’s interior is an excellent demonstration of high-end luxury manufacturing, with a cabin ambience transcending its price tag, the X4 disappoints with its blandness and overuse of black throughout the cabin.

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From the look and feel of the switchgear to the tactility of the buttons, door trim, seats and even the roof, the Porsche justifies the worth of its badge. In this regard, the Range Rover Evoque cabin (with a few options) would provide the best competition to the Stuttgart-based brand.

Surprisingly, though, both Germans provide a comfortable cabin with ample room for four large adults. Even our 185cm-tall tester felt comfortable in the second row of both.

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Boot capacity is identical at 500 litres, though the coupe-like shape of the X4 means the load area slants inwards, potentially limiting larger items from standing tall.

Powering the Macan S is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 with 250kW of power and 480Nm of torque coupled to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (PDK).

This makes it the first petrol-powered Porsche priced below $100,000 in Australia. If that wasn’t enough to get you excited, it’s worth noting the engine is a derivative of the company’s famous 4.8-litre V8, making its value for money equation a rather attractive one – something we don’t get to say about Porsche all that often.

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Meanwhile, the men in Munich have put the award-winning 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-scroll single-turbo BMW engine in the X4, with 225kW and 400Nm. Unlike the Porsche’s dual-clutch, the X4 35i gets an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox that has proven itself across the Beamer range.

Off the line, the Macan S will hit 100km/h in 5.1 seconds, a little quicker than the X4’s 5.5-second time, though without our test car’s near-mandatory option of Sport Chrono with launch control the Macan does the same dash just a tenth faster than the BMW.

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Figures aside, behind the wheel the two feel equally quick on the go and we suspect the actual difference in acceleration time comes from the Macan’s ability to get off the line in such a brutal manner, compounded by its rapid-fire gearshifts that not only deliver a cracking sensation, but a tremendous aural experience from its oversized quad exhausts.

The X4 35i is equally loud and while it sounds better coming on load, with the harsh mechanical growl we’re now so used to from BMW’s twin-scroll engines, it’s trumped by the Porsche on downshifts and crackles at redline.

Behind the wheel both SUVs are undoubtedly focused on driver enjoyment, with the X4 utilising an xDrive all-wheel-drive system first seen in the X6 while the Porsche Macan has ditched Audi’s drivetrain roots for a system borrowed from a 911 Carrera 4.

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Driving both cars around the twisty roads of Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo in Brisbane, we found the Macan’s innate balance and stability at speed unrivalled. While the X4 provides a very competent package around bends, it simply can’t match the sheer speed the Macan can carry in and out of bends.

Our Macan’s grip level was no doubt helped by its enormous 265mm-wide, 45-aspect 20-inch Michelin tyres on the front and 295/40 R20s on the rear (compared with 245/265 equivalents on the X4). It’s also worth noting that while BMW’s driver assistant systems were going into overdrive attempting to keep the car in check, we basically didn’t see the Porsche system interfere once.

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Although it’s based on a Audi Q5, the Macan is nothing like it, or its sporty SQ5 equivalent when it comes to dynamics.

A former Porsche employee told us recently that when the Macan was in development, the plan was to use 70 per cent Audi parts and 30 per cent Porsche parts, but the internal furor over the project was so intense that the company basically switched that ratio around, with the Macan more Porsche than anything else – and it shows.

The Porsche’s dual-clutch transmission also outmodes the eight-speed of the BMW for shift times, smoothness and a sporty edge. While the BMW is smoother at normal speeds and for everyday driving, the Porsche is simply made to go fast.

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Steering on the X4 is also more suited to everyday commuting, providing a lighter feel on centre and at low speeds but tightening up in Sport+ mode. As with the Macan, it’s almost too heavy and certainly not the sort of car you can drive one-handed (a good thing). But when the going gets fun, it’s the sweetest system you’ll encounter in an SUV with an almost faultless sense of control and every input, no matter how small, being translated into front-wheel movement.

Despite both vehicles claiming to be driver’s cars, neither is compromised for ride comfort. The BMW (which has adaptive suspension) and Porsche (with a similar system called Porsche Active Suspension Management) both ride beautifully over all surfaces we tried and can easily be used as daily drivers.

This wouldn’t apply to lesser X4s, which miss out on adaptive suspension and have the potential of being a little too harsh. As for the Porsche, air suspension can be further optioned for $3490 if ride comfort is of extreme importance.

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Around town the noise insulation in the Porsche is Mercedes-Benz S-Class-like in refinement despite the massive tyres, while the X4 – although still very good – can’t match it.

During our test the spiritedly-driven Macan returned a fuel economy figure of 15.4 litres per 100 kilometres while the X4 managed 14.0L/100km, both well and truly above their claimed figure of 9.0L/100km and 8.3L/100km respectively.

Overall though, both cars would make a great choice for everyday commuting for those who have around $100,000 to spend on a practical SUV with genuine sporting credentials. The X4 feels more focused on its edgy styling while the Macan is obsessed with maintaining the brand’s sporty heritage.

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One wears a Porsche badge while the other doesn’t, of course. And while that might sound a little wanky, being a Porsche owner is a huge incentive for many and the Macan offers the most affordable way in.

Perhaps the best way to summarise this comparison is to realise that there’s now a year-long waiting list of the Macan, which is growing by the day. The little Macan is ultimately the 911 of SUVs, outpacing not only the X4 in this test, but in all likelihood the other competitors in its segment as well – though we’re planning a test with the diesel Macan and its SQ5 distant cousin.

If you can get over the extensive options list, the Porsche Macan is the new king. So much so, that this tester is now going on the waiting list!

BMW X4 BREAKDOWN

Porsche Macan v BMW X4: Comparison review
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PORSCHE MACAN BREAKDOWN

Porsche Macan v BMW X4: Comparison review
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  • 8.5
  • 7.0
  • 8.5
  • 9.5

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GOOGLE BOWS TO WORKER PRESSURE ON SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICY

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Google is promising to be more forceful and open about its handling of sexual misconduct cases, a week after thousands of high-paid engineers and others walked out in protest over its male-dominated culture.

Google bowed to one of the protesters’ main demands by dropping mandatory arbitration of all sexual misconduct cases. That will now be optional, so workers can choose to sue in court and present their case in front of a jury.

It mirrors a change made by ride-hailing service Uber after complaints from its female employees prompted an internal investigation. The probe concluded that its rank had been poisoned by rampant sexual harassment.

“Google’s leaders and I have heard your feedback and have been moved by the stories you’ve shared,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in an email to Google employees.

“We recognize that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that. It’s clear we need to make some changes.” Thursday’s email was obtained by The Associated Press.

Last week, the tech giant’s workers left their cubicles in dozens of offices around the world to protest what they consider management’s lax treatment of top executives and other male workers accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct. The protest’s organizers estimated that about 20,000 workers participated.

The reforms are the latest fallout from a broader societal backlash against men’s exploitation of their female subordinates in business, entertainment and politics — a movement that has spawned the “MeToo” hashtag as a sign of unity and a call for change.

Google will provide more details about sexual misconduct cases in internal reports available to all employees. The breakdowns will include the number of cases that were substantiated within various company departments and list the types of punishment imposed, including firings, pay cuts and mandated counselling.

The company is also stepping up its training aimed at preventing misconduct. It’s requiring all employees to go through the process annually instead of every other year. Those who fall behind in their training, including top executives, will be dinged in annual performance reviews, leaving a blemish that could lower their pay and make it more difficult to get promoted.

But Google didn’t address protesters’ demand for a commitment to pay women the same as men doing similar work.

When previously confronted with accusations that it shortchanges women — made by the U.S. Labour Department and in lawsuits filed by female employees — Google has maintained that its compensation system doesn’t discriminate between men and women.

The changes didn’t go far enough to satisfy Vicki Tardif Holland, a Google employee who helped organize and spoke at the protests near the company’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, office last week.

“While Sundar’s message was encouraging, important points around discrimination, inequity and representation were not addressed,” Holland wrote in an email responding to an AP inquiry.

Nevertheless, employment experts predicted the generally positive outcome of Google’s mass uprising is bound to have ripple effects across Silicon Valley and perhaps the rest of corporate America.

“These things can be contagious,” said Thomas Kochan, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology management professor specializing in employment issues.

“I would expect to see other professionals taking action when they see something wrong.”

Some employers might even pre-emptively adopt some of Google’s new policies, given its prestige, said Stephanie Creary, who specializes in workplace and diversity issues at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“When Google does something, other employers tend to copy it,” she said.

Google got caught in the crosshairs two weeks ago after The New York Times detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against the creator of Google’s Androidsoftware, Andy Rubin.

The newspaper said Rubin received a USD90 million severance package in 2014 after Google concluded the accusations were credible. Rubin has denied the allegations.

Like its Silicon Valley peers, Google has already acknowledged that its workforce is too heavily concentrated with white and Asian men, especially in the highest-paying executive and computer-programming jobs. Women account for 31 per cent of Google’s employees worldwide, and it’s lower for leadership roles.

Critics believe that gender imbalance has created a “brogammer” culture akin to a college fraternity house that treats women as sex objects. As part of its ongoing efforts, Google will now require at least one woman or a non-Asian ethnic minority to be included on the list of candidates for executive jobs.

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GOOGLE OUTLINES STEPS TO TACKLE WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

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Google on Thursday outlined changes to its handling of sexual misconduct complaints, hoping to calm outrage that triggered a worldwide walkout of workers last week.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a message to employees. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Arbitration of harassment claims will be optional instead of obligatory, according to Pichai, a move that could end anonymous settlements that fail to identify those accused of harassment.

“Google has never required confidentiality in the arbitration process and it still may be the best path for a number of reasons (e.g. personal privacy, predictability of process), but, we recognise that the choice should be up to you,” he said in the memo.

image: https://content.thestar.com.my/smg/settag/name=lotame/tags=all

A section of an internal “Investigations Report” will focus on sexual harassment to show numbers of substantiated concerns as well as trends and disciplinary actions, according to the California-based company.

He also said Google is consolidating the complaint system and that the process for handling concerns will include providing support people and counselors. Google will update its mandatory sexual harassment training, and require it annually instead of every two years as had been the case.

Less booze

Google is also putting the onus on team leaders to tighten the tap on booze at company events, on or off campus, to curtail the potential for drunken misbehavior.

“Harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse,” Google said in a released action statement. “But, one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints made today at Google is that the perpetrator had been drinking.”

Google policy already bans excessive consumption of alcohol on the job; while on company business, or at  work-related events.Some teams at the company have already instituted two-drink limits at events or use ticket systems, Google said.

Google executives overseeing events will be expected to strongly discourage excessive drinking, according to the company, which vowed “onerous actions” if problems persisted. The company also promised to “recommit” to improving workplace diversity through hiring, retention, and career advancement.’ –

Googleplex walkout

Thousands of Google employees joined a coordinated worldwide walkout a week ago to protest the US tech giant’s handling of sexual harassment. A massive turnout at the “Googleplex” in Silicon Valley was the final stage of a global walkout that began in Asia and spread to Google offices in Europe.

Some 20,000 Google employees and contractors participated in the protest in 50 cities around the world, according to organisers. Demma Rodriguez, head of equity engineering and a seven-year Google employee, said during the walkout that it was an important part of bringing fairness to the technology colossus.

“We have an aspiration to be the best company in the world,” Rodriguez said. “But we also have goals as a company and we can’t decide we are going to miss those.” The protest took shape after Google said it had fired 48 employees in the past two years – including 13 senior executives – as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Demands posted by organisers included an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees, along with a right for every Google worker to bring a co-worker, representative, or supporter when filing a harassment claim.In a statement organisers commended Google for the response, but said more changes are needed.

“We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers,” organiser Stephanie Parker said in the statement.

Along with sexual harassment, Google needs to address racism and discrimination that includes inequity in pay and promotions, organisers said. “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top,” Parker said. – AP

Source:  https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2018/11/09/google-outlines-steps-to-tackle-workplace-harassment/#HJzOgT86K4srKCt1.99

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POOR WEBSITE DESIGNS COULD TRIGGER LEGAL ACTIONS

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Internet marketing has become so popular that e-commerce retail sales in the United States are on pace to double between 2009 and 2018, with sales amounting to US$127.3 billion in just the second quarter of 2018, according to an August 2018 update from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The transaction value of e-commerce service industry contracts reached $600 billion in 2016. Despite the rush to digital commerce, the rules for business transactions are still the same, whether they are concluded on paper or electronically.

Essentially, that means legally valid sales agreements need to demonstrate clearly that both vendors and consumers are aware of — and consent to — the terms of the agreements. It is especially important for vendors to ward off expensive class action suits by including contract terms that prohibit such suits and instead rely on arbitration to resolve any issues with consumers.

Yet recent federal court cases indicate that poorly presented Internet contracts can result in the nullification of arbitration provisions and class action prohibitions — thus giving consumers greater leverage in legal disputes with vendors. Usually the breakdown occurs when vendors mismanage either the display or the content of their websites — and sometimes both.

Website Messages Must be Conspicuous

The most recent example is a June case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issued a decision. The case stemmed from complaints that Uber Technologies wrongly added the cost of local tolls in and around Boston to customers’ bills. In Cullinane v. Uber, a federal district court initially ruled in favor of Uber and dismissed the complaint.

However, such is the state of differing perspectives on applicable laws, that the appellate court overturned the district court and ruled against the company.

Uber failed to convince the appeals court that the website sales agreement properly displayed both an arbitration clause and a prohibition against litigation, because the notice was not “conspicuous” enough to be legally valid. Absent adequate notice to the customer, there could be no agreement between the parties over terms and conditions, the court said in denying Uber’s motion to compel arbitration.

The case provided insight into the importance to vendors of arbitration clauses as a way to fend off class action suits.

Compared to litigation, arbitration is a “speedy, fair, inexpensive, and less adversarial” process, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in an amicus brief in the Uber case. Members of the organization “have structured millions of contractual relationships — including enormous numbers of on-line contracts — around arbitration agreements.”

Similar suits dealing with the issue include a second case against Uber with a different plaintiff and over a different issue, as well as separate cases involving Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In each case, courts have gotten into the weeds of website design, finding flaws in styles, the choice of colors, the size of printing fonts, and the use of hyperlinks.

For example, in Cullinane v. Uber, the appellate court noted that the website connection to the contract terms “did not have the common appearance of a hyperlink” because it was framed in a gray box in white bold text, rather than the normal blue underline style. Other screens on the site utilized similar highlight features causing the court to conclude that if “everything on the screen is written with conspicuous features, then nothing is conspicuous.”

Uber’s petition for a rehearing of the case was denied by the appeals court in a July 23, 2018, ruling. The company had no comment on the litigation, Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang told the E-Commerce Times.

Pulling the Trigger on Consent

Of equal importance with presentation is the vendor’s choice of using active or passive mechanisms to obtain customer consent to the terms and conditions of agreements.

In Nicosia v. Amazon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a district court decision favoring the company, and instead ruled in favor of the consumer plaintiffs.

The Second Circuit described two major types of customer consent mechanisms. The first, called a “clickwrap” procedure, involves the use of an “I accept” button, which forces customers to “expressly and unambiguously manifest assent,” according to the court.

A more passive alternative is a “browserwrap,” which “involves terms and conditions posted via a hyperlink” and does not request an express showing of consent. “In a seeming effort to streamline customer purchases, Amazon chose not to employ a clickwrap mechanism,” the court noted in the August 2016 ruling.

Ultimately, the court based its decision not on the consent mechanism per se, but on Amazon’s failure to display its terms adequately. The result was that “reasonable minds could disagree” on the adequacy of the company’s notice to consumers.

Amazon declined to comment for this story, spokesperson Cecilia Fan told the E-Commerce Times.

The significant variance among federal courts on the validity of Internet contracts may be caused more by different judicial perceptions than by differing laws covering “conspicuous” or “reasonably communicated and accepted” terms.

While these cases have been brought in federal courts, there is no federal standard for what constitutes adequate notice. Thus, for procedural reasons associated with the Federal Arbitration Act, federal judges have relied on applicable contracting law in different states, including California, Massachusetts, Washington and New York.

“I do not yet see a majority of courts moving toward a single legal standard, especially not one that is adapted to today’s technology,” said Liz Kramer, a partner at Stinson, Leonard, Street.

The U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit reached opposite results in recent cases “despite pretty similar circumstances,” she told the E-Commerce Times. One problem “is that state law applies, and the states are not consistent on what makes terms conspicuous enough to form part of the contract.”

“Different courts define the standard in different ways, but they all boil down to the principle that the arbitration clause — and the links to the clause — must be clearly presented to the consumer in order for there to be a meeting of the minds — in other words, an acceptance — of the arbitration clause,” said Mark Levin, a partner at Ballard Spahr.

“It is not so much the standard that is unsettled, but the application of the standard to the facts, since each website is unique and there are a multitude of factors, both in content and visual display, to consider in determining whether the consumer accepted the clause,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Even if there was a U. S. Supreme Court decision, or legislation that defined a single standard, there would still be a need to apply that standard to unique facts in virtually every case,” Levin said.

Web Designers Should Seek Legal Help

While vendors strive to create ever more attractive and compelling websites, designers and marketing staffs need to address the basic nuts and bolts of contract communications, said Levin.

For electronic documents, vendors should “refer to the arbitration clause near the beginning of the terms and conditions, make sure the link to the clause is obvious and clear, minimize the number of mouse clicks it takes for the reader to get to the clause, and refer to the arbitration clause again at the end, close to an electronic signature or ‘I agree’ button,” he advised.

The easiest way for e-commerce vendors to avoid trouble is to skip any indirect notification procedure, suggested Stinson’s Kramer. Deliberate downplaying of key contract terms is an invitation to legal challenge.

“The best way to ensure that an arbitration agreement is enforceable with customers who agree online, or through an app, is to have them actually click ‘I agree’ after reviewing the terms and conditions,” she said.

“Great care should be taken in designing and structuring a website arbitration clause, since courts scrutinize every detail, cautioned Levin.

“This is definitely an area where businesses should enlist legal counsel to help with the design, substance and placement of the clause to help ensure that a court will enforce it,” he said. “If adequate attention is not paid to these issues at the outset, the business could end up in a debilitating class action lawsuit.”

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