T&Cs on Ts. The assumed guilt of the user.

Its so easy to skip over reading the Terms and Conditions of a service or digital product. We are often too eager to start using it to patiently read the long declarations and wade through the language. Which, I guess, is to be expected when some providers T&Cs are tens of thousands of words, and use legal terms that most of us would not care to understand. 

A Symantec survey found that, on average, just 25% of people read T&Cs. The highest proportion are found in Italy, where a surprising 53% of people read them in full. The lowest is in Denmark. 

Beyond the length, and the lack of interest users show in reading them though is hiding a more sinister issue. The assumed guilt of the user at the end.

Looking at the tone and intention of T&Cs, it’s clear that most fail to balance the terms of usage with a fair and reasonable ending. Obviously these documents are intended to protect the company’s interest, this comes as little surprise, but when you consider them in terms of how the expectation of the service will come to an end, they focus on blaming the user for some inevitable failure. This in turn blocks the potential of a friendly amicable ending to the relationship. Something that would be balanced and at least wouldn’t see the user as a problem.

In the digital chapter of the Ends book I go in to detail about how this cultural bias in T&Cs is a big problem with services and digital products, but in the interests of time for this article I want to just highlight the funniest phrasing in the T&Cs that I found while investigating endings in T&Cs.

The winner was…Apple’s T&Cs for iTunes. Published on the 30th of June 2015 its entirety contains 20,000 words - which is pretty daunting. Looking through this vast tomb of text I saw many scenarios where the Apple corporation bought their service to an end with phrasing that assumed the user was at fault and would be forcibly ejected from the service, casting them as a problem, a breaker of the contract, the guilty party. 

Download the PDF file of the T-Shirt for free here. (Be aware, it is in reverse until you stencil it on a T-Shirt.) >>>

 “Apple reserves the right to disband a Family in accordance with the “Termination” section of this Agreement.“ 

I found this example so funny, I wanted to make a kids t-shirt out of it. I hoped people would take a second look at the t-shirt on the beach while my kids wore it on their summer holidays. Maybe it would strike up a conversation. Maybe they would think about what it said. Maybe they wouldn’t look, and carry on, like we do when we tick Ts&Cs.