Texas Vonage suit: here's what Vonage is "guilty" of

In my last postI described the lawsuit filed against Vonage by Texas Attorney GeneralGreg Abbott. The suit claims that Vonage is being vague about the fact that users are not being adequately told on sign-up that they must go through a separate sign-up procedure to obtain Vonage's free 911 service.

In my last postI described the lawsuit filed against Vonage by Texas Attorney GeneralGreg Abbott. The suit claims that Vonage is being vague about the fact that users are not being adequately told on sign-up that they must go through a separate sign-up procedure to obtain Vonage's free 911 service.

In my opinion, the only transgression Vonage is guilty of is mediocre information presentation due to site content and related usability issues.

There are six such issues, which I identify below.

To form an opinion, Idecided I needed toassess where within the sign-up procedure the 911 issue is first presented to customers. So to do so, I went through part of the Vonage sign-up process.

The first screen (also the Vonage homepage) has several icons that when clicked, lead to specific pages about the offer.

The second screen has information about the offer you clicked on. Toward the bottom of the page, a seven-item Q&A appears. The sixth question reads:

"Does Vonage offer a 911 Dialing emergency type of dialing service?

"Yes. Click here to learn more."

Clicking "here" takes you to an information page that in myjudgment, clearly describes what you need to do to activate 911 service. There's also a non-technicalexplanation of how the calls are routed to Public SafetyAnswering Points - and notemergency dispatchers. The fact thatthe address identification of the caller is limited to the address on file for the Vonage account is also explained.

If you happened tonot notice the documentation about"911," notice is also given further into the sign-up process. It'son the "Tell Us About Yourself" page, directly below the shipping address.

I've looked over this information as presented on these screens. Vonage can do a better job of articulatingthese 911 issues.

Here are my suggestions for how Vonage can improve the information about 911 calling on its site:

  • On the main page for each offer, have a pop-up with a clickable link to a 911 services information page. Sure, some pop-up blockers will "catch" this feature, but enough people will see it to make a difference.
  • On the same page, elevate the 911 question from the sixth of seven such questions to a bit more prominent a place- say the second or third question asked.
  • On the Tell Us About Yourself page, relocate the "911 Notification" box to a more visually prominent place on the page. Right now it is near the bottom of the page, between Enter Your Shipping Address and Terms and Conditions. My main issue with this placement is that when you have either of these boxes displaying in your browser,youdo not see the "911 Notification" box. Someone in a hurry to fill out all this information could rapidly scroll down to the Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the page and miss "911 Notification" entirely.
  • For that matter, rename "911 Notification." To me, the term "notification" sounds like memo language. How about "911 Service Limitations?"
  • Shorten the Terms and Conditions. How many people read these documents thoroughly? One suggestion: extract the "Emergency Services- 911 Dialing" language and build it into a second Terms and Conditions document each potential subscriber must agree to.
  • Finally, provide more info on the nature of 911 over VoIP- how it works, the limitations, the difference between 911 and E-911, and your alternatives. Offer this extra info in a PDF for those who feel they need to know as much about this issue before they sign up.

What's your take? Is Vonage doing all it can to present this information clearly? Post a TalkBack.