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Aug 17

Tease and Seize

What do you think is the biggest lie in the world?

Would it be “Am I really that late? Heavens, doesn’t time fly when you’re helping homeless, orphaned, child amputees”? Or, “Sorry I’m late, I was searching for the hero inside myself.”

No. The biggest lie in the world is: “I have read and accepted the Terms and Conditions.”

We all do it

Terms and conditions are easy to accept - but should you read them first?

Admit it. Haven’t you clicked ‘AGREE’ within a nanosecond of seeing this message on your screen?

Oh, you could have clicked on the button actually to read the legal gibberish that you know is on the next page or twenty. But who on earth actually does that?

No one with your busy life.

You just want the app…now…and yes, if they are demanding your first-born child (which, if it’s Microsoft, they probably are) you’ll deal with that when it happens. You just want that app now!

It’s the same with mobile phone contracts, savings accounts, job applications, mortgage applications. Don’t even get me started about insurance contracts!

The trouble with ticking Yes

We see the ‘I agree’ button and click ‘yes’ just to get through to the next page and out of this misery as quickly as possible. It’s only now that people are facing problems with their holiday bookings that they’re even considering looking through the terms and conditions of their holiday contract and insurance policy. And what a miserable prospect that is.

If you’re one of those people who would rather have exploratory surgery than actually read one of these long and boring contracts (and it is isn’t it?) don’t worry; you’re in good company. When I say ‘no-one’ reads the Ts and Cs I mean no-one. Not even the clever, legally-minded financial bods who run our big banks and investment houses.

Proving a point

In 2010, GameStation asked customers to sign the terms and conditions. Hidden inside the small print was a promise that Gamestation would own the customer’s ‘immortal soul’. A whopping 84% of people signed the contract. Luckily, the prank was revealed and Gamestation agreed that, actually, they didn’t own customers’ souls.

A few years ago, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had a meeting with top brass from a number of financial companies and before the event they sent everyone a brief contract to sign with a couple of pages of clauses.

All of them signed to say that they had read and agreed the terms but not a single one actually had done. If they had read them they would have realized that upon arriving they were all required to jump up and down and shout. That was in one of the clauses, buried deep in the document.

If they hadn’t bothered to read the small print, said the FCA’s Chief Exec, how could they expect their customers to do it?!

Exactly. But has anything been done about it? No. We have just as many of the wretched things as ever and no one is reading them.

If they did they probably wouldn’t have time to eat because they take so long to get through. Back in 2016 members of the Norwegian consumer council read the terms and conditions for 33 apps, live online. It took them thirty hours straight and was even less compelling viewing than the graveyard slot on BBC from the House of Lords.

Make Money from Terms and Conditions

Mind you, there could be a money-making opportunity here for someone. One of our MoneyMagpie readers, student Johanna commented: “I’ve just thought of a great way to top up my income. I could go over Terms and Conditions for busy professionals who are too busy and that. I could charge a tenner an hour and if they don’t like the price I’ll tell them they should’ve read my Terms and Conditions before they hired me!”

Now there’s an idea for a law student with a bit of time on their hands: set up a website that has a potted, bullet-point version of every Ts and Cs around. Charge people £1 to check their own contract online and after a while it will pay for itself. You got the idea here first!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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