Purchasing any service-based contract including mobile phones, electricity or internet access can be very confusing. This is down to the complex small print which many people simply disregard. It’s not surprising though given the baffling terms which sometimes have a number of contradictions. Plus, many customers don’t have the time to read sit and read through a wall of text using a tiny font. Companies know this and exploit the notion that hardly anyone reads the terms and conditions of a contract. For example, internet service providers usually outline their traffic management system and bandwidth restrictions during peak times. This means with some ISPs, you might have “unlimited downloads” but the speed is capped to a ridiculously slow rate after so much data has been downloaded within a 24 hour period. As such, it’s so important to read the fine print or ask an independent expert about a service’s restrictions.
The UK government has launched a new consultation to make companies adopt an easier-to-understand small print and anyone who doesn’t comply could face hefty fines. According to the Terms and Conditions and Consumer Protection Fining Powers paper, ISPs should clearly outline “the average monthly cost as well as the total charge”. Additionally, the government may require companies to list their terms in a “bolt and upfront” manner. Online retailers would have to reformat the small print to make it legible on smartphones and consumers could receive a cheaper tariff for reading a contract’s terms and conditions. The government is clearly trying to encourage customers to read the small print but this is easier said than done.
We live in a very fast modern world where people work long hours and have limited spare time. However, you should always adopt a cynical approach and make time to read a contract’s small print to ensure the service provided is what you expect.