How many times have you marked “yes” when they ask if you have read the terms and conditions of any internet service you are buying, without actually doing it? There is no need to lie or feel shame about it, we have all done it sometime or another. But just because everyone else is doing something it does not mean that it is not correct, nor that it is a behavior one must imitate or encourage. Clicking on “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions” without really doing so, is like signing a legal contract without knowing what it says.
The first thing you should know about terms and conditions is what they really are and the role they play on the websites you visit. The type of website that usually have terms and conditions their users need to agree to, are those that work based on subscriptions and provide some sort of service be it free or by some fee. Since they require that their users subscribe to their services, these sites often need some sort of legal backup in case their product is misused or if any other kind of trouble arises. In that sense, the terms and conditions are nothing more than a legally binding contract that both parties must abide to and respect.
“Clicking on ‘I have read and agree to the terms and conditions’ without really doing so is like signing a legal contract without knowing what it says”
If the thought of signing a contract without reading seems like something unthinkable, why should agreeing to the terms and conditions of something like Netflix be any different? You would not buy a house or a vehicle without first reading carefully the sale contract or at least check it out with a lawyer or an expert. But it just so happens that these are material things and for some reason, we do not think of the things we buy on the internet as such. We still feel as if it is all virtual.
We still have not made ourselves with the idea that the things we buy on the internet are real and that the money we use to pay for them is just as real. Think of how the terms and conditions that you are agreeing to benefit the company that you are doing business with. They went through all the trouble of writing them and more than one of them is counting on the fact that you will not read them in order to take advantage of you.
Terms and conditions are basically a contract
You are signing a legally binding contract with your eyes closed that obliges you to uphold it and do as it says and more often than not these things will not be beneficial to you.
Terms and conditions minimize legal disputes
Being a legally binding contract that you signed without reading it may be too late when you realize that things may not be working as well as you thought it would and now you cannot take legal actions. Written agreements help companies prevent going to court, because in most cases, it is the client who breaches the contract, so it is legally impossible for the later to take the former to court and settle a dispute.
Terms and conditions can bind you to a service
In case you do not wish to continue receiving a service, no matter the reason, or if you simply wish to change it, it is possible that the terms and conditions claim that you agreed to those things cannot be changed, or that you must wait a certain amount of time before you can cancel or modify your contract.
Terms and conditions can be a cage
Never underestimate the legal team behind big and powerful corporations and companies. These are a group of very capable lawyers whose main objective is caring for the company’s interests and they do so by creating ironclad contracts that are practically bulletproof and free of loopholes.
You may think that most people are aware of the risks they are putting themselves through, but surprisingly less than 7% of people around the world read the terms and conditions before they agree. According to some sources, six out of every ten people would rather read the instructions manual of a bulldozer before reading the terms and conditions of every online transaction they make.
Most of the people that admit to not reading the terms and conditions, claim they do not do so because they find it a tedious and boring task and because they are often written in a very specific and technical language that not anyone can understand.
And out of this group of people that do not read before they sign, there is a significant number that have been somehow been damaged by them. In several cases, they have found themselves bound to a legal contract for a longer period of time than they expected, because they did not read the fine prints. Another considerable group of people has lost money because they could not cancel or modify a hotel or flight booking as they usually have conditions that prevent costumers from changing their reservations.
At Premier Consumer, we are well aware of the importance of knowing and understanding everything you are agreeing to when you check the “I have read” box, so are best advice is this: Read before you sign! Many contracts can be impartial and only benefit one side over the other, which is the side that usually lands on its feet in case anything happens and more often than not it will be the company rather than the client. These types of clauses will always be there, and in a legal debate, one can never use the lack of knowledge of a condition as reason for non-compliance, as long as it is written.
Always read the terms of every website you visit, remember that almost every online store have their own version and that they are always different. Look out for things such as cancelation policies, extra fees, special taxes, and fines that may be hidden in the contract.
Hotels, for example, usually have a cancelation and modification policy on their bookings, these are usually different between each establishment and they can make you lose your money if you do not read them carefully.
All websites and establishments are bound by law to show and display their terms and conditions agreement so that their clients may read them when they are about to make a transaction or a purchase. It is your responsibility to read them carefully and to be aware of what you are signing so that you may not fall into a legal trap. Read before you sign!