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Oracle’s latest move: changing a URL, embedded in a URL, embedded in a URL, embedded in your contract and reducing the quality of their support.

Oracle is notorious for their unclear and incredibly complex contracts.  A purchase of Oracle database has hundreds of pages of terms and conditions when you look at your contracts and the URLs contained in those contracts.  It’s often the URLs where Oracle hides their biggest “gotchas.”  Oracle repricing policies around their technical support is a great example of this strategy.

Most Oracle customers have a contract that states the actual contract and URLs embedded in that contract constitute the arrangement of the parties.  According to the Oracle contract itself, nothing else should really apply.  If it’s not in the contract, it doesn’t bind the parties.  Well, that’s how it should work, but the reality is different.   Oracle will often use non-contractual “policies” to extract revenue from their customers or restrict their customers’ freedom to use competitive products.  It appears that Oracle is now taking this approach one step further.

Recently, Oracle made a change to their terms of service policies related to usage of their technical support portal.  Did you even know there were terms of services for that portal?  Have you ever read them? Of course you haven’t.  Not only did Oracle change their policies, but Oracle didn’t make any type of announcement to their customers about the change (at least I could not find any announcement).  Do you know how we found out about the change?  We found out because Oracle started sending letters to their customers who were “violating” the terms.

Let’s give you a little more detail where these policies sit:

  • You have a contract with Oracle that you signed. In that contract are a bunch of URLs pointing to different Oracle policies. (Now remember, these direct ULAs are usually incorporated into your Oracle agreement by the entire agreement clause you and Oracle signed up to.)
  • One of these URLs is Oracle’s Technical Support Policies
  • Oracle Technical Support Policies have URLs in them as well. One URL points to the Oracle Support Portal where you log into Oracle support and use the service you are paying for.
  • The Oracle Support Portal has a series of links on it. One of these links is their Terms of Service policies.  It’s in this link that Oracle made a change.

In summary, Oracle changed text in a URL, contained in a URL, contained in a URL, contained in your contract.  And now Oracle is sending letters to customers who they say are violating that link.

So what did Oracle change?  They made two changes: 

  1. First, Oracle is limiting the number of downloads you can make each day when you have Oracle support.  You were able to make unlimited downloads and now Oracle is capping it at 500.   In typical Oracle fashion, they did not actually prevent you from downloading more than 500 documents/patches in a day.  Rather, the Oracle system allows you to go out of compliance and then you are hit with the nasty-gram.   Sound familiar?
  2. The second change Oracle made is that if you download a patch from Oracle you must apply it within 90 days.   Previously you could apply it whenever you liked.   This change is so recent that we have not yet seen Oracle audit their clients and use this as a non-compliance finding.  But knowing Oracle the way we do, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oracle LMS did just that.  Oracle knows when you downloaded the patch. Running Oracle LMS scripts could tell Oracle when you applied that patch.  After that, it’s just a math problem.

There are so many important issues surrounding this move by Oracle.  Can Oracle compel their clients to adhere to these non-contractual terms?  (Remember, it’s not in your contract).  Are these new restrictions a material reduction in Oracle’s technical support policies and therefore a potential contract breach?  Will Oracle audit customers who apply patches after 90 days?  Why did Oracle make these changes in the first place?  Are they trying to limit the value of their on-premise offerings to make their struggling cloud seem more appealing?  We don’t know the answers to these questions but we will be following this one closely and writing separately about these issues in much more detail.  One thing we do recommend is that you continue to run your business as you need, and should Oracle come knocking with a letter or an audit, be armed with facts to defend yourself.  One fact is indisputable: it’s not in your contract!

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