IS the SD under an obligation to honor $7.48 per year?

Inthis thread, post #212, I speculate how this whole “new Pit rules” debacle is a cleverly devised scheme to induce Charter Subscribers into letting their lifetime subscriptions lapse, out of outrage and in protest of the colossal idiocy of a Pitless Pit, annoyance at the condescending attitude of loyal staffers in defending said policy, etc., but I just realized that I’m not sure if the SD does actually owe us Charter Members a perpetual renewal at that low, low rate that is not available in stores.

Sure, many of us proud Charter Members are under the impression that we have been promised a $7.48 annual renewal rate for the remainder of our lifetimes, but many of us Charter Members are legal ignoramuses in our spare time. So I ask: Has such a promise been made (or is there weasel language that permits TPTB to claim “No, all we have to do is try to extend that subsciption rate, but legally you can piss off”)? If TPTB want to do away with all the Charter Memberships they have created, can they just announce “From now on, due to unexpected business-related junk that you know nothing about and never will, we have to raise Charter Memberships to a billion zagillion dollars per day” and that would do the trick? Is the SD, in short, actually under any sort of obligation to honor the perpetual renewal of Charter Memberships at that rate?

Is my post #212 essentially correct in its assumptions or not?

I always assumed they could yank it whenever they want. The original plan was not a contract. It was a unilateral marketing decision by the Dope Staff. It’s their plan, they can change it. Thats how I always saw it anyway.

Not necessarily. An argument could be made that there was a valid offer and a valid acceptance for consideration. They said if you renew every year by a certain time we will not raise your fee. There are certain defenses like statute of frauds which require a signed writing but this type of contract may or may not be covered under the statute. There are also equitable (legal equity not moral) issues like detrimental reliance. The short answer is it is not as simple as “It’s just a marketing ploy, they can change it whenever they want.”
Here is a good link.

(Not a US case but general contract principles are fairly similar)

I figured it wasn’t simple. Now speaking hypothetically since I have no intentions of retaining a lawyer, wouldn’t you have to prove some damage was done by the breech of contract? The only way to prove that would be a lawsuit. Who is going to take up a suit for a tiny bit of money? Even with a class action suit you would have to have quite a few people involved before it would be worth anyones time.

One thing I distinctly recall is that the original offer was not in terms of a specific dollar amount, but relative to the standard price (specifically half). So if they raised the standard price to $20 they would certainly be free to raise the charter price to $10.

Whether they have any legal obligation to retain the separate charter membership price, I have no idea.

Slight hijack: I was a Charter Member, and I was willing to pay the subscription because otherwise I could not use the almost-worthless Search engine. But now, Search is available even though I’ve lapsed. So it seems to me that the only advantage of paying is that my posts will show my location and post count. So I’m not bothering to renew.

What advantage do others see in paying?

I’ve been monetarily supporting a board I enjoy in order to keep it going, even when many jumped ship after PTP. Not that it seems to mean anything.

I do admire that.

But I’m willing to pay by watching the commercials. (I had forgotten that paying members don’t get the ads. Thanks for reminding me.)

Right. The most common form of contract damages is expectation damages (also known as difference money). Hypothetically speaking, if you could prove that you were entitled to renew at price X, but were charged X+Y, under contract law you could recover Y. In some cases you could tender the contract price and then sue to enforce the contract. In some situations, you might be able to recover statutory damages and maybe even attorneys’ fees under consumer protection statutes, but you’d usually have to show more than breach of contract to get those.

I’d be interested if someone holding an official position, a mod, an admin, or **Ed **himself, would opine here, if not specifically on the SD’s legal obligation (though that would of interest, of course) than on the whole general issue of obligation (and lack thereof) in making assurances in perpetuity similar to the ones the SD made a few years back about wht Charter Membership mean.

If anyone is so bold, I’d further ask if there is any basis to my suspicion that the SD (or CL) is at least not too concerned if Charter Members begin to drop like flies, voluntarily, because the CM-ships are now seen as a poor business decision that they are honor-bound, if not legally compelled, to honor. I wonder it’s so now, because if Sofis’s memory is correct, then all they have to do would be to raise the new subscription cost by a few hundred percent, half of which would still look very unattractive.

ETA: obvious simulpost with brother** G**. Thanks.

As a slightly-related question, is Creative Loafing obligated to continue offering memberships at all? Because if making the board universally-obligatory-ad-view is a better profit model than the bilevel model, couldn’t they just, at the time of renewal, stop offering membership and make all members ad-viewers? (Not that I’d be an ad-viewer…I do know how to block them, regardless of membership status.)

If I am to believe the the OP, it will annoy Ed. There is that.

What he said.
I used to be able to afford it.
Will be waiting to see how things shake out in the next 30 days or so.

What you said.


This aspect is more suitable to ATMB than to GQ (as are opinions about this board or its management). If it is to remain in GQ, further replies to this thread should to be limited to factual information on the general question of legal and contractual obligations. On the other hand, if the OP prefers, I can move it to ATMB; I will do so anyway if it becomes a discussion of board policy.

General Questions Moderator

For now, if it’s okay with you, Colibri, I’d as soon get the more general answer to my general legal principle question settled before we move into SD-specific issues, mainly because I have my doubts as to how forthcoming an answer I’m likely to get on that one anyway. If Ed or someone else wants to come forward with an answer while this is still in GQ, they can of course just link here and give that answer in ATMB.

It’s OK with me, and as Gfactor has responded to some of the legal aspects, I assume it is OK with him too.

[Moderator instructions]

Please restrict further commentary in this thread to the general legal issues described in the OP. Other threads are available in ATMB to discuss specific SDMB issues.

General Questions Moderator

You can also save twice as many PMs.


Please see my instructions. This thread is not for discussion of the advantages of paying, but for legal issues.

The Carbolic case sort of applies, but the best case here would be the Orkin v FTC case.

I haven’t looked at the specifics of the charter member agreement here, but it could presumably be similar to the Orkin case, and the SD would be obligated to uphold an agreement.

In short, Orkin offered service for the lifetime of a building at a fixed prive… and many many years later it was hurting their business, so they upped the prices, and the FTC found that their actions were unfair.

But if someone would post the actual agreement/advertising, it would be helpful.