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OnStar Reverses Decision About Proposed Terms And Conditions Policy Changes

In a General Motors press release, the company's OnStar unit announced a reversal of proposed changes to its Terms and Conditions policy that were to go into effect December 1st. The proposed changes included the GPS tracking of autos where the owner had cancelled the OnStar subscription. The press release stated:

"We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” OnStar President Linda Marshall said. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers.”

Jonathan Zdziarski documented well in his blog the problems with OnStar's proposed Terms and Conditions policy:

"OnStar’s latest T&C has some very unsettling updates to it, which include the ability to now collect your GPS location information and speed “for any purpose, at any time”. They also have apparently granted themselves the ability to sell this personal information, and other information to third parties, including law enforcement. To add insult to a slap in the face, the company insists they will continue collecting and selling this personal information even after you cancel your service, unless you specifically shut down the data connection to the vehicle after canceling. This could mean that if you buy a used car with OnStar, or even a new one that already has been activated by the dealer, your location and other information may get tracked by OnStar without your knowledge, even if you’ve never done business with OnStar."

Zdziarski cancelled his OnStar subscription after receiving this notice. What were GM and OnStar executives thinking? Did they really think that this would fly with consumers? Consumers demand control over their personal data. And when consumers cancel a service, "no" means "no."

It is good to see that the company's executives now value an opt-in program, although they had to learn the hard way via public embarrassment. The company's press release also stated:

"If OnStar ever offers the option of a data connection after cancellation, it would only be when a customer opted-in, Marshall said. And then OnStar would honor customers’ preferences about how data from that connection is treated."

Hopefully, executives at other companies will learn from this case study, too. Scan the business landscape and ask your customers what they want, before making significant policy changes.


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