Online consumer contracts are everywhere.
When using social media, making bookings, or performing any of a million other online transactions, consumers are asked to read contracts.
We may tick a box accepting their terms and conditions, but very few of us have the time, patience or expertise to decipher these contracts.
Many online contracts are very long, very complicated, and use financial, technological and legal jargon.
In 2015, Apple’s T&Cs for iTunes were 20,699 words long! The iTunes T&Cs even inspired a graphic novel!
According to recent research, online contracts are as hard to read as academic articles. For more information see this article in The Conversation.
Our principal, Greg Martin (a lecturer in Contracts Law), says:
Online consumer contracts are often overly lengthy and complicated. Some are nearly as incomprehensible as the academic articles written by my friend, a Professor in Tax Law!
Consumers are legally assumed to have read and accepted written contract terms. Accordingly, consumers will generally be bound by the contracts they enter – whether or not they have actually read or understood them.
In situations like these, legality conflicts with practicality. Do I really need to read this incredibly long and complicated contract? How can I agree to something I don’t understand?
Although plain-language contracts are increasingly common, the current legislation does not make readability compulsory.
Now that consumers enter contracts with the click of a button, perhaps plain-English contracts should be mandatory?