According to a Deloitte study, a staggering 90% plus of consumers tick that box without even taking a cursory glance. For millennials, it’s a jaw-dropping 97%.
The excuses are understandable. The language is too technical. Do you really expect people to read 70+ pages? And it’s all templated anyway, only there to protect companies from legal issues, that’s all.
But if you want to cover your bases and avoid selling your first-born to a fake social networking site (yes, this was an actual thing), it’s a good idea to go through that arduous process of reading every word.
You May Be Missing Key Benefits
Most of the advice is going to be a little negative, in that we’re going to try and help you from being caught out or missing an important piece of relevant information. Basically, to stop you from agreeing to something without your knowledge.
However, there also exist positive reasons to read the small print. In other words, benefits that you may be missing out on by clicking on the ‘I agree’ checkbox without giving it a second thought.
Let’s look at the RBS Rewards Platinum Account as an example. Looking further down the benefits section of the Terms and Conditions, in a slightly hidden section, you’ll see that you can add your partner onto your phone insurance and travel insurance for free.
It also works for sign-up bonuses, for example with mobile phones, broadband contracts, or even casinos. Picking the right combination can save you a lot of money and/or give you a far more generous bonus.
EE and Vodafone, for instance, offer free Spotify and Sky Sports to some customers, but only for a limited time (read the cancellation small print, otherwise you pay!). And in terms of sign-ups, CasinoTopsOnline offers various new customer deals, like boosted free spins or bets, and reading the specific terms for each will help you choose the ‘most boosted’ one (not a technical term!).
Insurance Companies and “Pre-Existing Conditions”
How about this: insurance company small print is longer than Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Literally. The average terms and conditions for health insurance, for example, is around 38,000 words.
But even though it’s a slog, you should read it. Insurance companies are notorious for being absolutely ruthless. If you’ve suffered with cancer, for instance, insurance companies will even attribute a cold to it. If there’s a list of conditions, make sure yours isn’t on it. Otherwise get specialised cover.
This also holds true for life insurance policies. The reason we sign up to these are in case the unthinkable happens, so that we can leave something behind to help our loved ones.
But if you haven’t read the ToS, they may get a cheque for a grand total of $0. For example, if you have not given the correct occupational details, an accurate portrayal of your physical state, or any medical details that may be seen as relevant.
Most people will know the big ones, like pre-existing heart problems, but the terms and conditions will show you that life insurance companies like getting far more specific. If it turns out that you haven’t disclosed even the tiniest thing, there’s every chance your policy will not pay out.
No Time? Use Terms Of Service; Didn’t Read
Of course, it’s impossible to read through every single ToS. Particularly when it comes to online services we use often. For these types of websites, there’s a gift from heaven: tosdr.org.
This non-profit is seriously cool, going through all of the Terms and Conditions of some of the world’s most popular services. They rate them from very good (Class A) to very bad (Class E). It means you can sign up without having to go through the small print spiel; all you need to do is install a small browser add-on. It’s still a small outfit, but it’s growing.
Let’s go through some of them. Facebook, for example, doesn’t have a good rating (the worst, in fact, Class E). By signing up, you agree to have your identity used in ads, it tracks you on other websites, and in some cases can license user content (your photos, videos) to third-parties.
Google, on the other hand, fares better with an ‘okay’ Class C. They track what you’re doing, but your identity data is not used in exactly the same way. And you can request access and full deletion of your data (this is something Facebook does not do).
Final Tip: Of Course, It Depends
People have to agree with a company’s Terms and Conditions on a near-daily basis. And while we recommend you try and read them all, we acknowledge that in practice this is not really viable.
So, choose carefully. If you’re installing a new version of your Mac’s operating system, for example, it’s no biggie if you scroll through the small print like a world record speed reader. But when it comes to serious stuff, like a bank account, your life insurance policy, anything to do with travel (especially in a pandemic-hit world), get a cuppa and read it all.
Here’s your chance at small print redemption.