The Chancellor has announced that Which? will work with businesses to change the way they present their terms and conditions, particularly online, to help ensure there are no surprises for consumers.
Our latest research has revealed that nine in ten (90%) people have agreed to terms and conditions when buying a product or service online in the last year, but only 16% say they always read them.
The most common reason people give for not reading terms and conditions is that they are too long (65%), while four in ten (38%) say it’s too hard to find the important pieces of information and a third (33%) think they’re too confusing.
Small print under scrutiny
The Consumer Rights Act, which came into force last month, is a big step forward in making terms and conditions clearer by requiring terms to be fair and transparent. However, with some terms and conditions as long as Shakespeare’s Macbeth (18,110 words) – for example the iTunes Store’s terms and conditions run to 19,994 words – there’s still a possibility that important points could be hidden in the detail.
Businesses shouldn’t hide behind the small print or fail to communicate clearly with their customers, as this could lead to consumers facing some unwelcome surprises. We want to work with companies to ensure they present online terms and conditions in a clear, easy to understand way, and that they test their approach with consumers.
Better deal for consumers
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP said: ‘The government’s Better Deal launched today is a vital step in ensuring markets work harder for families and firms and is central to our ambition to make the UK the most productive advanced economy.
‘A core part of securing a better deal for working people is improving transparency for consumers, so I’m very pleased to welcome the new Which? campaign that will bring clarity to how businesses present terms and conditions, ensuring consumers know exactly what they’re signing up to. I hope businesses work positively with Which? on driving this campaign forward.’
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘No one should have to read endless pages of baffling legal jargon just to make sure there are no unwelcome surprises in a contract. More must be done to ensure consumers can easily understand what they’re signing up to. We look forward to working with companies to simplify their terms so people know what they’re getting when they sign on the dotted line.’