Consumers leave online terms and conditions unreadNew survey finds only 7% read T&Cs in full

20 May 2011

Clive Anderson has recorded Skandia's T&C  

The investment firm Skandia has commissioned Clive Anderson to record its terms and conditions in a novel attempt to bring them to customers' attention. 

New research, commissioned by the investment platform and fund manager, shows that only 7% of consumers read full online terms and conditions online, with 43% of those not reading saying they are boring or contain jargon they don't understand. Of more concern, though, is the fact that 21% of consumers surveyed said that they had suffered as a result of ticking the terms and conditions box without having done their homework. 

Talking smallprint 

Skandia's initiative highlights a wider point about how infrequently people read online terms and conditions before accepting them. A company spokeswoman said: 

'We know people find terms and conditions boring but they're a necessary part of any contract and they're particularly important where money is concerned. Our initiative with Clive marks the start of work to completely overhaul all our terms and conditions to make them easy to understand. 

'It’s a major job but it’s worth it because it will give our customers a greater understanding of what they're signing up for.'

Consumer law

Failing to read the terms and conditions before making an online purchase can have serious consequences. One fifth of those surveyed had suffered as a result: 10% were locked into a longer contract than they expected and 5% lost money by not being able to cancel or amend hotels or holidays. With online shopping and online sales ever increasing, more and more consumers continue to be affected by this. 

Joanne Lezemore, senior lawyer at Which? Legal Service, said: 

'The advice is simple: always read the terms and conditions of any contract before you sign it. It is really important you understand everything before you sign on the dotted line, as you could find yourself landed with extra fees or charges. While all consumer contracts are subject to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations, this doesn't mean you can challenge a clause just because you didn't know it was there, or you think it's unfair – because it's clearly written, you're bound by it. 

'Terms and conditions are different on every website, so make sure you know what you're agreeing to. People are often surprised to find out they're obliged to pay to return unwanted items purchased online, as it is commonly stated in the terms and conditions – and these fees can be expensive.'

While online shopping and travel are obvious areas where T&Cs matter, energy companies and mobile phone companies can have important details buried in their smallprint too. 

Listen to Clive Anderson 

You can hear Clive Anderson explain why terms and conditions matter in Skandia's YouTube video


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