Ever been caught out by small print? It’s not rare, as our Fixed Means Fixed campaign proves. New proposals suggest you should be allowed to challenge unfair terms if they’re not transparent and prominent.
So why do people get caught out by contracts? Well, far too often important terms are hidden away in reams of illegible small print. And even if you do read them, it’s difficult to know what they really mean.
But Facebook is free – the issue of unclear contracts can also affect your pocket if you’re signing up to a contract you have to pay for. Whether it’s for a gym, mobile phone or loan, there’s the risk that you could get caught out by unexpected charges.
Perhaps it’s just our fault for not reading contracts properly before we sign up? Yet, if the legal language is beyond most of us, how can we be expected to read all the way through and come out on the other side with a thorough and accurate understanding of all the T&Cs?
Tackling contract terms and conditions
Well, the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission have proposed to shake things up. They’re seeking views on proposals that would require contracts to be written in plain English. Not only that, they’re also proposing that contract terms, including those relating to price, should be challengeable. The only exemption would be if the terms were transparent and prominent from the get go.
And that’s our main beef with the mobile phone price rises many of you have experienced. The mobile providers have consistently pointed at terms that allow them to raise prices by RPI inflation for existing customers. However, as we’ve seen from your hundreds of comments, the great majority of you had no idea such terms existed. Are these price rise terms transparent, prominent and in plain legible language?
Plus, if something as counterintuitive as a price rise during a fixed contract is included in those terms, isn’t that even more reason to make it clear and prominent so that potential customers are aware of it before they sign on the dotted line? Remember to pledge your support for our Fixed Means Fixed campaign:
Hector MacQueen, Scottish Law Commissioner Professor, explained their proposals:
‘First, it would protect consumers from being caught out by unpleasant surprises such as unexpected charges. Secondly, by requiring terms relating to price or the main subject matter to be in plain, intelligible language, legible and readily available to the consumer […] it would help to prevent honest traders from losing out to their more unscrupulous counterparts.’
Have you ever been caught out by small print? Do you think contracts should be written in clear and transparent language?