While it’s easy to quickly scroll through the fine print, it could actually save you a lot of irritation (and sometimes money!) to read through it. Fine print, also called “terms and conditions” or “terms of service”, are the part of an agreement that spells out restrictions and limitations. These terms are included to protect the company from running into any legal trouble.
Packed full of legal terms, most people scroll through this section without taking the time to review it. In a Deloitte survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, about 91% of people admitted to accepting terms and service conditions without actually reading them.
Over the years, there have been numerous cases where ignoring the fine print turned into a major problem for one or both parties. From unknowingly signing up for hidden fees to agreeing to additional services, skimming this important part of a contract can cost you in more ways than one. Before you sign your name on the dotted line, consider these 4 things that could be included in the fine print.
It may not seem like a big deal entering your email address and clicking, “I Agree”, but these quick and easy steps can have a lasting effect. Some companies will insert different permissions regarding the personal information that you may miss.
An example of this is found in the terms of service for the software company, Prezi, which states that it can use reproduce, modify, and distribute the content you created. Alternatively, some businesses, such as Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts, include clauses that don’t hold them responsible for what happens to your data.
With a contract, it’s easy to get distracted by how you’ll benefit from the arrangement. Unfortunately, it can be just as easy to overlook what you’ll be missing out on.
For example, this can apply to shopping for health care plans. While one plan may have a lower annual deductible, you may be sacrificing a health spending account (HSA) or lower copays by not reviewing the terms and conditions. Reading the fine print can help to ensure you’re getting the most out of the agreement.
Additional Services and Fees
When it comes to accepting the terms of a subscription or a service, you may also be unknowingly signing up for additional services and/or fees.
Customers of Fabletics, a popular athletic apparel subscription service, ran into some trouble when starting out. At checkout, they offered customers the option to sign up for a monthly membership in order to access the discounted prices.
What many didn’t realize was that they would be charged $49.95 per month after the initial sale, regardless if they made a purchase or not. Customers felt “duped” and frustrated, leading to many canceling their memberships.
In some cases, reading the fine print can actually be entertaining. Companies, like Tumblr and MailChimp, make their terms and conditions fun by using casual language or asking to not be held liable for fictional events, such as a zombie apocalypse.
Recently, a teacher from Georgia won $10,000 from an insurance company just by reading the fine print on her travel insurance contract. The secret contest encouraged customers to reach out upon finding the hidden message to claim a reward. According to the company, “The lack of understanding is one of the biggest reasons travel insurance claims are denied”. In this case, it literally paid to read the fine print.
In a time where everything is expected to be fast and easy, it’s no surprise that people still breeze past the fine print. Terms and conditions are a crucial part of any contract, as it protects both the company and customer. Whether you’re considering new health insurance or adding new software to your computer, it’s important that you know exactly what you’re signing up for.