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MSE News: Firms 'must stop' hiding conditions in the small print

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MSE News: Firms 'must stop' hiding conditions in the small print

edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Consumer Rights
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MSE_GuyMSE_Guy MSE Staff
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edited 30 November -1 at 12:00AM in Consumer Rights
This is the discussion thread for the following MSE News Story:

"The OFT sent a clear warning to businesses as it reveals one in five people experience problems with contract terms ..."
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  • My understanding from the short law course I did at Uni was that this was a common-law requirement anyway. Terms that would be surprising to a reasonable person in the circumstances need to have attention drawn to them or they risk being struck out by a court. Of course it's better for everyone if things don't need to get as far as the courtroom, so it's good to see the OFT reminding firms of this principle.

    Pete
  • DaveF327DaveF327 Forumite
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    I'm glad this has been brought to more prominent public attention.

    Now let's end these unfair "we'll opt you in unless you opt out in 11½ months" clauses which are blatantly designed to catch people out who are highly likely to forget by then.
  • Toe-JamToe-Jam Forumite
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    The mobile phone industry should have been included in this hit list, A lot of 3rd party retailers are including clauses in their seperate terms and conditions that if you cancel your contract, even without penalty from the network, you are liable for all costs of the full contract the the 3rd party. When the network is charging you nothing for exiting.

    https://www.buymobilephones.net changed their terms on the 22/02/11 to indicate this.

    buymobilephones
    14.1.1. In the event that you are disconnected from your network for any reason within the period of your minimum term contract, you will be invoiced for the minimum sum of 240 GBP plus VAT per handset to cover the costs of the goods provided, loss of income and administration. Invoices will referred to Daniels Silverman Limited. All charges and legal fees incurred will be the responsibility of the customer and will be legally enforceable.
  • Businesses have been ordered to stop hiding key conditions from consumers in the small print.

    Unless they gained some new authority overnight, the OFT cannot order anyone to do anything.
    Gone ... or have I?
  • squeakysqueaky Forumite
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    Even if they are written in bigger ink at the top of the page it can still be difficult, given the language and terminology used by some, to work out just what the implications are for the customer.

    Once upon a long time ago a survey showed that in order to fill in a range of government forms correctly (housing, benefits etc) you needed an IQ at or close to Mensa level. A lot of work was done to change all the forms used so that today they are much easier to understand than they used to be.

    Some things within T&C's have to deal with fairly complex issues and these are therefore often expressed in what I think of as "techno-speak". It's the language used within any given industry which, to those working in it, is normal, accurate, and perfectly clear.

    Unfortunately, to those of us not familiar with it - it reads like gobbledygook.

    So sorting out T&C's across a whole range of companies and services is going to be quite a task, methinks.
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to [email protected]. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.
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  • Interesting.

    When I was developing the legal side of my e-commerce website I thought I was being useful by highlighting the 'key' terms to help avoid issues where people didn't bother reading, but was then advised by multiple different lawyers that actually by doing so, and with case law to back it up, you are diminishing the effectiveness of all the other terms.

    So now it just shows all the terms at point of sale.

    Regards,

    Keith.
  • A think the biggest problem is people not reading the T&C's at all, whilst ticking the box agreeing that they have, which if something goes wrong comes back to bite them on the RS, 4 out of 5 people (80%) have no issue with contract terms.

    I'd guess that most threads/complaints on this forum are down to consumer ignorance and nothing to do with the contract terms being in the small print.
  • squeakysqueaky Forumite
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    :)

    While it's probably true to say that some people don't read the T&C's - it has to be said that many of them make hard (or dead boring) reading. There is a case for making them easier to read and understand... that way, perhaps, more people will read them.

    That said, this board was opened to try and help folks where we can regardless of circumstances rather than give them a hard time about what they did or didn't read.

    Almost by definition - by the time they reach here they've already learned that lesson for themselves... the hard way.

    As you, and other members, have pointed out elsewhere - sometimes the company T&C's win the day and that's all there is to it.

    But sheesh! the darn things can be hard work! :)
    Hi, I'm a Board Guide on the Old Style and the Consumer Rights boards which means I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly and can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an inappropriate or illegal post then please report it to [email protected]. It is not part of my role to deal with reportable posts. Any views are mine and are not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.
    Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
    DTFAC: Y.T.D = £5.20 Apr £0.50
  • ~Brock~~Brock~ Forumite
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    You can do what you like to make contracts clearer but they still wont get read, and I'm not even referring to the illiterate part of the population that cn nly spk in txt spk innit.

    I recently witnessed a court case where a person cheerfully confirmed to the judge that she never reads anything she signs......clearly under the impression that this fact meant that she didn't have to be bound by the terms of any contract she enters into.

    She lost.
  • About time too - though I do wonder how much difference it will make.
    I have T & Cs for when I get a new customer. Nothing onerous and they seem reasonable. After a while, it became clear to me which conditions were cropping up as an issue more than others - so I changed things. At the start of the T & Cs I would point out which conditions caused the most queries and I ensured that those ones were printed in bolder text. And still there were occasional issues with people pleading ignorance as they hadn't read them. My T & Cs are not lengthy. They are printed in plain English. I embolden the ones that I now know will crop up the most. I don't want unwilling customers. I don't want customers who may think I have manipulated or conned them. I prefer to run my business by consent rather than coercion.
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