Software sales hype and the law

Effective and ethical stakeholder management is becoming mandatory. For decades the software industry has been able to largely ignore the needs of its clients, but the world is changing. The UK Construction and Technology Court is following the lead set in the BSkyB v EDS judgment and making software vendors live up to their promises! You can bet the rest of the world won’t be far behind….

In 2006 the Kingsway Hall Hotel paid £49,999 plus an annual licence fee of £7,528 for software vendor Red Sky’s Entirety package, which covered bookings, check-in and sales. Kingsway selected the system based on Red Sky’s recommendation.

Problems arose almost immediately. Issues included incorrect room availability and no-show reports, unallocated mini-bar charges and a main server crash. Entirety could not cope with group bookings and the servers frequently froze.

Kingsway’s solicitors wrote to Red Sky saying that Entirety was unfit for its purpose and Kingsway was entitled to reject it and seek damages. Kingsway claimed for loss of profit on lost room sales of between £222,000 and £311,000, plus £13,500 for an additional reservations manager, £36,333 for three additional shift leaders and £13,500 for wasted staff costs.

Red Sky claimed Kingsway had bought an off-the-shelf package after having ample opportunity to investigate it.

The judge held that Red Sky had been aware of Kingsway’s requirements and under section 14 of the UK Sale of Goods Act 1979 it could be implied that the Entirety software system would be fit for the purpose of increasing revenue and occupancy levels and allowing quicker check-in and check-out. Entirety did not meet that purpose, nor the standard a reasonable man would consider acceptable.

The court awarded Kingsway £50,000 in lost profits £24,000 in wasted expenditure and £38,000 for extra staff costs.

To avoid similar problems, effective requirements analysis is becoming mandatory backed up by delivering on the contracted promises to meet the identified stakeholder requiremets.

References:

Kingsway Hall Hotel Ltd v Red Sky IT (Hounslow) Ltd [2010] EWHC 965 (TCC) – UK Technology and Construction Court May 2010

BSkyb Ltd & Anor v HP Enterprise Services UK Ltd & Anor (Rev 1) [2010] EWHC 86 (TCC)

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