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

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Consumer Rights
32 replies 4K views
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  • RadoJoRadoJo Forumite
    1.8K Posts
    The problem is that of which clauses are considered 'important'? It's clear from posts on here that a lot of long-running problems arise when a situation comes about which is fairly uncommon and it becomes clear that the Ts and Cs allowed for such an event, but hadn't been read because the customer (reasonably in some instances) assumed it wouldn't apply to them.

    Insurance is a classic for this - they can make the 'key' terms clear, but if someone encounters a situation which is slightly out of the ordinary, they feel aggrieved that the clause specific to their situation wasn't highlighted - it all seems obvious in hindsight, but at the time it doesn't occur to you that the clause relating to an unlikely scenario will actually be relevant. If you happen to have your belongings eaten by a goat, you might find that you aren't insured but it probably wouldn't have occurred to you to check the Ts and Cs related to goat-related loss beforehand however unreasonable it seems once you've tried to make a claim.

    I suppose it also depends on the prevalence of such clauses and whether failure to have your attention drawn to them actually affected your purchasing decision - if your insurance won't pay out because of a clause which may have been 'hidden', but every other insurance company also has the same clause in their Ts and Cs, then the chances are that you haven't really lost out.

    Perhaps, instead of calling them Ts and Cs, they should be labelled as contracts - something about the idea of agreeing to the terms of a contract seems more serious than Terms and Conditions (although it could have the opposite effect and fool people into taking all contracts less seriously!).
  • FATBALLZFATBALLZ Forumite
    5.1K Posts
    This is ridiculous. The only way firms can do anything about this is to type all the terms and conditions in a massive font. So instead of having a couple of pages of small print you'll have a novel of large print.

    I find insulting the implication that I am too stupid or blind to notice that the terms and conditions just because they are written in small letters.
  • MobeerMobeer Forumite
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    dmg24 wrote: »
    Unless they gained some new authority overnight, the OFT cannot order anyone to do anything.

    I was wondering this as well - the article is unclear as to how the order been made, and what punishment will be applied in the event of non-compliance.
  • squeaky wrote: »
    :)

    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! :)

    Given the way some people react to being told that the retailer was right, they clearly have not learned a thing!

    Can you point out an example of terms and conditions from a mainstream retailer that are difficult to understand? I can't look at this from a lay point of view, so would be interested to know what others think are hard work.
    Gone ... or have I?
  • It is not uncommon for existing terms and conditions to be changed at will as the right to do so was agreed in the fine print of the contract. This is a tad unfair.
    J_B.
  • fthlfthl Forumite
    350 Posts
    Bo-one reads t's and c's. Honestly, I rarely do, and I really should know better. That's the problem.


    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/15/online-shoppers-unknowingly-sold-souls/
  • squeakysqueaky Forumite
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    dmg24 wrote: »
    Can you point out an example of terms and conditions from a mainstream retailer that are difficult to understand? I can't look at this from a lay point of view, so would be interested to know what others think are hard work.

    I'll do my best.

    By the time I got to section 5 of this my brain was spinning and my eyes were beginning to cross...

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=footer_cou?ie=UTF8&nodeId=1040616

    So towards the end of section 7 the following (referring to user's rights on posting comment/reviews)
    You agree that the rights you grant above are irrevocable during the entire period of protection of your intellectual property rights associated with such content and material. You agree to waive your right to be identified as the author of such content and your right to object to derogatory treatment of such content. You agree to perform all further acts necessary to perfect any of the above rights granted by you to Amazon.co.uk, including the execution of deeds and documents, at the request of Amazon.co.uk.
    You represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content that you post; that, as at the date that the content or material is submitted to Amazon.co.uk: (i) the content and material is accurate; (ii) use of the content and material you supply does not breach any applicable Amazon.co.uk policies or guidelines and will not cause injury to any person or entity (including that the content or material is not defamatory). You agree to indemnify Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates for all claims brought by a third party against Amazon.co.uk or its affiliates arising out of or in connection with a breach of any of these warranties.

    That's section 7 and there are a total of a numbered 27 which in turn are followed by a whole bunch of notices.

    Then in section 13 there are links to two more sets of T&C's I need to read...
    For conditions relating to the sale of products by Amazon's Preferred Merchant, Indigostarfish.com, to you on Amazon.co.uk, see the Indigostarfish.com Terms and Conditions.For conditions specifically relating to the sale of digital content from the Amazon MP3 Music Service to you, see the Amazon MP3 Music Service Terms of Use


    Aha! 14 and 15... the ones of most interest to me. Nice and straightforward actually - but I wish they'd been the first ones.

    Section 22 seems to say "reasonable" a lot - which kinda means "somewhat flexible" to me. Especially since the back half of that one seems to be saying "you've got no chance".


    And this...
    26. Governing law and jurisdiction
    These conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and the application of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods is expressly excluded. You agree, as we do, to submit to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the district of Luxembourg City.


    Does that mean that UK laws don't apply? Do I have to go read Luxembourgs laws? What bit of the U.N. stuff that is excluded might have been of some help to me if it hadn't been excluded?




    And I'm sorry but the Notice of Infringement stuff and whatever follows it is just too much hard work to go through right now. It's been a long day.




    Has this been of any help?
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  • fthl wrote: »
    Bo-one reads t's and c's. Honestly, I rarely do, and I really should know better. That's the problem.


    http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/15/online-shoppers-unknowingly-sold-souls/

    Agree...to an extent.

    Whilst most people don't read the detail, there are plenty of instances on here where people utterly fail to grasp the point of the deal (e.g. "gym membership rip offs"; "scammed by XYZ Limited").

    I do wonder at what point 'consumer protection' must appreciate that some people are just either lazy or very stupid.
  • RadoJoRadoJo Forumite
    1.8K Posts
    squeaky wrote: »
    I'll do my best.

    By the time I got to section 5 of this my brain was spinning and my eyes were beginning to cross...

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=footer_cou?ie=UTF8&nodeId=1040616

    So towards the end of section 7 the following (referring to user's rights on posting comment/reviews)



    That's section 7 and there are a total of a numbered 27 which in turn are followed by a whole bunch of notices.

    Then in section 13 there are links to two more sets of T&C's I need to read...



    Aha! 14 and 15... the ones of most interest to me. Nice and straightforward actually - but I wish they'd been the first ones.

    Section 22 seems to say "reasonable" a lot - which kinda means "somewhat flexible" to me. Especially since the back half of that one seems to be saying "you've got no chance".


    And this...



    Does that mean that UK laws don't apply? Do I have to go read Luxembourgs laws? What bit of the U.N. stuff that is excluded might have been of some help to me if it hadn't been excluded?




    And I'm sorry but the Notice of Infringement stuff and whatever follows it is just too much hard work to go through right now. It's been a long day.




    Has this been of any help?

    I do see what you mean, but I think people need to learn to identify which parts of the Ts and Cs actually apply. For example, the first quote you make from Amazon refers to reviewing products on the website. If you aren't reviewing a product, then it is reasonable not to read the Ts and Cs relating to that, but I think that because people see a load of text in a block, they disregard all of it!

    Having said that, these are legally binding terms and the onus is on the companies to provide all the information in a way that protects them in the event of a legal challenge which does often require specific wording and long winded explanations of how they are applied. If they supplied the main information (which realistically is mostly likely to be details of compliance with the DSRs and similar consumer laws) in easy to understand terms, they would still have to have all the other parts which cover more unusual issues and then people would complain that because the clause relating to their situation was in the 'full' version of their Ts and Cs it wasn't clear enough, and then you begin again.

    I think a more important movement is towards educating people on their rights as a consumer, after all I spent years learning how to solve quadratic equations which I rarely do as an adult, and no time learning about consumer law etc which applies to the purchases I make every day. I don't think it is a question of retailers making things clearer so much as a requirement for general education to have some practical focus so that people are able to identify when they are being taken for a ride, but also to understand what their responsibilities are when entering into an agreement with a retailer or service provider as well.
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