Big Brother is watching us. Our privacy is at risk and our internet passwords are easily hacked. What’s more, if we fail to read the small print of every contact carefully, we will be unaware of any stealth provisions hidden within. We will also be oblivious to the hideous consequences of agreeing to something without first reading and understanding it. Who knows what we could be signing away…our rights, our data, our privacy?
Never before have we been so vulnerable to so many legally binding clauses. And, more worryingly, unintelligible terms and conditions can come back to haunt you. But this is hardly surprising when you actually look at Ts&Cs more carefully. They are almost always written in size 4 font, they use words which might as well be made up, and they go on and on and on. It would take us a magnifying glass, an LPC and a lifetime to decipher them…
Surveys show that just 7% of people read the full terms when buying a product or service online. Nearly six in 10 adults say they would rather read an instruction manual than go through online terms, and more than one in 10 would rather read the phone book. Meanwhile, 43% of those who don't read the terms and conditions say they are just too long-winded, incomprehensible, and far too high brow.
So, here’s a challenge to those of you who write these long winded documents that most of us ignore. Stop trying to bamboozle us. We can’t all have a lawyer on speed dial whenever we want to sign up to a store card or take out a new phone contract. Keep it simple. Write like a human for humans… Maybe some enterprising lawyer out there should write Ts&Cs for Ts&Cs…in plain English of course!
When was the last time you read a terms and conditions document in its entirety? In fact, have you ever? You may want to start setting aside the time to do it, given an ingenious ploy by the UK's free Wi-Fi hotspot provider Purple. 22,000 people signed up to use its internet service...only to find themselves legally bound to 1,000 hours of community service. Purple isn't the first company to play with their customers in this way. In April 2010, retailer Gamestation snared 7,500 customer souls for all eternity thanks to the small print in its Ts&Cs.