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Has your customer sold their soul?

Every time I click on something online, I get this funny
thing about agreeing terms and conditions.

The popup window appears and my brain shuts down.  I just hit ‘accept’, ‘agree’ and move on.

I guess the reason is that I don’t care what the small print
says, I just want the end result.

I want the game, the goods, the download, the music, the
movie, the wine, women and song.

I don’t want to read a whole load of legal guff that I
assume is just corporate gobbledygook to cover their asses if things go wrong.

And what could go wrong?

I download the wrong music, get the wrong wine, find the
goods bad and mistake the game for the song?

Sure, ok, shift happens, but do I care?

Not really.

In this age of instant gratification and zero time, there
simply is not enough time to think about the details and this has been proven
again and again.

My favourite proof point is from two years ago when, as an
April Fool, the computer game retailer Gamestation placed a clause in their game download that said:

“You agree to grant us a non transferable option to claim,
for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should we wish to exercise this
option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have
on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from
gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”

Was anyone bothered about this clause?

Apparently not.

Not a single person who downloaded their game that day
clicked the opt-out button to not
sell their soul to the firm.

Screen Shot 2012-10-23 at 08.41.08

From Zazzle

Point proven?

Well, not quite.

Generally, people are far more focused on the result rather
than the process, whilst firms are far more focused upon the process rather
than the result.

Some banks, for example, focus upon the process of payments
rather than what people are paying for.

Utility firms focus upon the process of delivering water,
oil and gas, rather than what people use water, oil and gas for.

You may think I am over-stating here, but it is this
critical chasm of focus that shows why some firms excel at dealing with
customers whilst others fail dismally.

And the T’s and C’s are an illustration of that mismatch in
focus.

In fact, most legal engagement between supplier and customer
are illustrations of some form of success or failure, as demonstrated in this
TED Talk by Alan Siegel:

Interesting that several of his examples are from the
financial industry, and this dates back a long, long time.

For example, when I first started working with banks and
insurance companies back in the 1980s, we were facing regulations related to
Plain English.

Today, we still talk about Plain English or, rather, Plain
Internet.

How do you simplify the engagement between the customer and
the product whilst protecting your own backside?

Now, there’s a challenge and it’s pretty much embodied in
the statement: User Experience (UX) (although we shouldn’t call customers ‘users’).

But it goes way beyond that.

For example, all firms have to have these terms and
conditions in their account opening process. 
The real thing I want to know is: are any of your T’s and C’s
exceptional, designed to screw me up when things go wrong or likely to make me
lose money?

Now, that really would be a great way to do an account
opening.

Screen Shot 2012-10-23 at 08.36.01

 

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About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Chris IMO the legal dense gobblygook is inserted purely and cynically as a means of protection for the issuer. It’s similar to those pointless signes that venue managers erect stating things like, ‘Patrons use this cloakroom at their own risk’. Pointless because, this, of course, provides no protection from the managers (i.e. it’s no get-out of responsibility clause). Indeed, among the Scottish legal judiciary at least, a dim view is taken of such devices and they go against the credibility of the managers.
    I suspect that website users who were to be seeking some sort of redress in UK courts, would get a sympathetic hearing if they were to plead ‘but My Lord everyone knows that no-one actually reads the legal dense gobblygook.’

  • Chris,
    I’ve tried a little game, my DisClaim Game, over the past few months. Cut and paste then “word count” the disclaimer text. It’s astonishing. How am I supposed to read 10,000 to 15,000 words in any sensible space of time? “Gosh that’s long I disclaim!” Personally, from companies that wish to deal with me “ethically”, and in reality expect me to click through, this does seem like unfair contracting. I think it’s particularly unfair in two other obvious ways – on websites many sites would time you out if you read it. On CD-ROMs, you’ve already purchased, but they don’t exactly stick a printed booklet for the disclaimers on the side of the box – too expensive. Perhaps you should start a campaign for FairBanking Disclaimers?
    Best wishes,
    Michael

  • Bethany

    The behaviour of O2 is a good example of how unfair the arrangements described in this article are. When renewing a mobile phone contract verbally and making payment at the same time I thought that a binding contract had been entered into. This is not the case according to O2 – the contract is a document that was sent at a later date by email to me. By behaving in this sly way O2 have an excuse for increasing their prices after only a few weeks since the commencement of the ‘fixed’ contract. Disgraceful.

  • Bethany – I know Chris keeps telling us telcos may be the new banks, but even worse I had that same O2 behaviour from National Savings and Investments. They took the money from the account, then returned it a month later when they decided they didn’t want index linked savings and claimed I had no contract. Truly despicable.