Thursday, 15 March 2012

Crazy Terms and Conditions

Do you buy things online? Rail tickets or clothes, groceries or books?  If so, as you progress through the form, filling in your address and then credit card details, what do you do when you get to the box that must be ticked:  “Confirm you have read and agree with our terms and conditions”.  I’ll bet that very few of you actually read those terms and conditions. 

I recently applied online for a new credit card from my bank.  All progressed well and so I was asked to tick the “I have read and agreed the terms and conditions”.   Except that I hadn’t.  What I did was open the document, take a look, and do a word count. Incredible. Pages and pages and pages of legalese, which I certainly didn’t have the time to read.

I’ve been keeping my eye on this issue over the last few weeks. My recent booking of two train tickets on contained a terms and conditions document of 17,477 words.   The return ticket only cost £15.85.

I downloaded a piece of music from the iTunes Store. There were 17,509 words to read after this heavy-duty introduction:  The Legal Agreements Set Out Below Are Between You And Itunes And Govern Your Use Of The Itunes Store, Mac App Store, App Store And Ibookstore. To Agree To These Terms, Click "Agree." If You Do Not Agree To These Terms, Do Not Click "Agree,"
And that credit card application? It was with online bank  There were 45,230 words relating to the terms and conditions. That’s more than half an average novel. That is 45,230 words I am meant to read, online, before I submit my application to get a new credit card.  If I had walked into a high street branch of the bank, assuming one existed, to apply for a credit card I think I’d have found a form to complete, which might have run to, say, four sides of A4, with attached terms and conditions.  Why would that simple form suffice for an in-branch application, but not an online one?  Crazy.

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