As many online companies’ terms and conditions are now being bigger than Shakespeare’s Hamlet- could it be that “unfair” clauses in agreements are unenforecable?
The issue of companies’ online terms and conditions have been in the news in recent years.
A month later the number of people using the site was believed to have dropped by nearly 50%.
Yet companies continue to test the boundaries of what consumers are willing to accept.
“Apple reserves the right at any time to modify this agreement and to impose new or additional terms,” the iTunes terms of service says.
But most people probably will not have read that when signing up to iTunes.
It gives companies the right to change anything agreed to in the initial agreement and by continuing to use the service, users agree without giving specific consent.
“We see it in Microsoft, Netflix, Apple,” says Jimm Stout, of the site Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR).
“They don’t have to tell you, they may tell you but they may not. Just continuing to use the service is complying with that contract,” he adds.
ToS;DR has been set-up to “fix the biggest lie on the internet,” where people tick a box to say they have read things they have signed up for.
It is perhaps not surprising consumers do not read every terms of service agreement they sign up to.
Shakespeare’s longest play, Hamlet, is around 30,000 words long yet Paypal’s terms of service agreement contains approximately 50,000 words.
Apple iTunes’ conditions come in at a mere 14,500 words, just under the length of Macbeth.
If you were to read all the policies that you agreed to online, you would have to take 76 work days just to finish reading through the policies you agreed to,.
But it could be that, in Europe at least, these sort of clauses may not hold much weight if they ever went to court.
Many companies carry this sort of clause in their terms of service, and it is believed to be valid in the US legal system. But if it is illegal under European law, why are companies which operate here trying to retain the right to do whatever they wish?
The saving grace could be that companies are less likely to be able to enforce rules that are not “fair” if the person using the site is not made aware of them specifically in the first place.
Plus it will take a very brave- and a very rich person to take on the companies to prove the point in a court of law.