February 7, 2012
Thomson Reuters' OnePass-YourAss Scheme, Part One: The sign on the wall says "Progress over [Software] Protocol"
Back on Dec. 15, 2011, a law firm librarian posted a warning on law-lib about how anyone who has a credit card or knows the firm's Land of 10,000 Invoices account number can execute a transaction that will be billed to the firm's West account. Hell, one doesn't even have to know the institution's West billing account number(s). There is plenty of tie-ins. Ship-to addresses are tied to bill-to West accounts. Even easier, order online via WestMart requires an OnePass user account which is, of course, automatically associated with the institutional buyer's West billing account. Ah ... having an individual OnePass account permits the account holder to use resources licensed by the institution. It does not mean every damn OnePass account holder has a "license" to buy something. Do note well, even personal, meaning not firm, credit card purchases can get sucked into TR's OnePass-YourAss system.
A comment to the Dec. 15, 2011 law-lib post identified just how far and wide TR's OnePass-YourAss practice reaches. By that I mean we aren't just talking about an attorney buying a $15 dollar Rutter Group pamphlet for office use without prior authorization (damn good catch!), a SuperLawyers transaction involving a firm's market director (who presumable has the authority to use a firm credit for this transaction) also appeared in the firm's West account managed by the law library! (Obviously, Thomson Reuters wants folks to replace in-house budgeting and expenditure systems that identify library spend for legal resources with a standalone budget line item that informs the MBA-types "this is how much you are paying to Thomson Reuters," but I digress... .)
After a series of email exchanges, West's response as published on law-lib was:
Thank you for contacting Thomson Reuters ... Support regarding the online order. I am happy to assist you.
1. The system brought up the [X] shipping address but the person placing the order changed it to [Y] address.
2. It does show as paid by [attorney's] credit card.
Our system won't require them to use a credit card if they are using the firm's account number when placing the order. We don't have any way to block someone from placing an order if they are using the firm's account number.
"Today's impossible is tomorrow's reality." Apparently the Company's programming gurus are too incompetent to program a block for this stunt. Well, here's how to do it: He or she who authorizes payment to the Land of 10,000 Licenses, is the person who determines which OnePass account holders can or cannot buy something. Remember folks, any member of your institution might have more than one OnePass account. We are not just talking about folks accessing Westlaw.
How really how hard is it to tie each OnePass account's registration key to a set of permissions? X can buy stuff, Y cannot. Is that really impossible? Of course not, OnePass OneAss accounts are database-driven to gain access. Permission settings in the form of verified authorizations are not bleeding edge programming. It is not just possible, it is pretty damn easy. TR Legal just doesn't want to do it.
"The man who has ceased to fear has ceased to care." There is no doubt in my mind, that if TR Legal sent every law library director a link to a secure web destination to check off one-by-one which OnePass account is authorized to make buy-not-buy decisions, it would get our immediate attention. And you know why!
There's been no publicized follow up from AALL since the December 15, law-lib message that I have seen. There has also been no "Dear Colleagues" posting on law-lib (unless I missed it). Why? Well, perhaps because one of law-lib messages included West's "solutions" to this matter:
Send an email to the Firm highlighting no personal orders should be placed with Thomson Reuters on the firm account
Utilize “My Account” to check new orders
Periodically review Print Subscription List with Customer Service Key Account Team to ensure the correct print subscriptions are on the account.
"May I pass along my congratulations for your great interdimensional breakthrough. I am sure, in the miserable annals of the Earth, you will be duly enshrined," Customer Service person. My response:
Right, an email is going to "work." Plus, law librarians across this great land of ours are going to have to establish separate OnePass user accounts that better be tied to an non-institutional email account and hope that user populations remembers to use that account for personal purchases.
Really, hourly check, daily check, weekly check for non-order "orders"?
Well, first, your institution has to be a "Key Account" (read really big spender) to be able to contact someone other than 1-800-Nameless unless you know your Westlaw rep's pBook support team member's name and have his or her contact inform. Of course that assumes (1) the pBook person is still on the job and (2) you still have a Westlaw rep.
Oh, BTW, will my "Print Subscription List" include eBooks any of my OnePass account holders have licensed without prior authorization?
(You do know, you can ask for your "Print Subscription List," right? Just call or email a request to John Shaughnessy, Vice President, Corporate Communications - Legal to obain a 2012 Pro Forma price list. Oh, my bad, "corporate communications" means outside, not inside the Land of 10,000 Invoices. Well, it is obtainable if you know who to contact. But I digress... .)
"Asking is a polite way of demanding." So to hell with it. Here's another solution. Just tell TR to go take a hike. Need language? To avoid deniability it would be prudent to send some sort of notice like the below via certified, return receipt snail mail.
Chairman, Thomson Reuters
3 Times Square
New York, NY 10036
Re: "There is little time. You better come quickly if your planet is still important to you."
This is to inform Thomson Reuters, all of the Company's business units now and future ones, that only the undersigned representative of the institution identified in this communication's signature line is authorized to purchase any and all of the Company's products and services now or in the future. Under no circumstance will this institution pay for any purchases not authorized by the undersigned without prior advance approval by the undersigned. Unless otherwised informed, the undersigned representative of [insert name of institutional entity] is the only person authorized to place orders for any and all of the Company's products and services charged to our Thomson Reuters accounts.
This is also to inform Thomson Reuter that all prior purchases will not be paid for because the Company failed to verify that the "purchaser" was authorized to execute a commitment expend this institution's funds unless that person is a signatory to this letter.
[Optional: In the attachment(s), matters highlighted in red have not been nor will be paid because the Company failed to verify authorization in advance. Matters highlighted in green have been paid but also were not authorized by this institution. Payment does not imply after-the-fact authorization. It only means that we did not want to have to deal with the collections people in Mumbai. Kindly see to it that we receive a refund check promptly. Credit to our account is unacceptable. Of course, if your Company's something like $12 billion credit line is not renewed this summer on favorable terms, we may be willing to loan you the money at a nominal 11.3% per year interest rate.]
If you have any questions regarding this matter, you may want to check with your employees.
cc: James C. Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Thomson Reuters
If charges still appear on your institution's monthly statement, just refuse to pay. Hell, you could even forget about notifying the Company in advance and just not pay all such YourAss charges. TR will understand because we are all "partners," right? Oh, my bad, perhaps only officials at AALL and Thomson Reuters are "partners."
"We have no special constitutional powers, unless you consider the extraordinary rights accorded every U.S. citizen by law, in which case we are amply empowered to go about our business." If enough (and I doubt it would take too many) BigLaw (toss in BigGov) buyers "boycott" TRI's OnePass-YourAss scheme by picking up the phone or putting TRI on notice in writing, David Thomson just might grab Jim Smith by the collar to say
"Let's go back up to my office and talk about this like two reasonable beings."