Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read (ToS;DR) is a project designed to “help fix the “biggest lie on the web”” – almost no one really reads the terms of service we agree to all the time.

Ignoring the fact that consumers don’t read terms & conditions and will accept them out of laziness, seems like preying on apathy to me, and is far removed from responsible business. ToS;DR is one of several services appearing that aims to tackle this issue by making privacy policies, terms & conditions and terms of service easy to understand, at a glance. To me, whether this is done through visualisations, summary notes or various ominous honks, doesn’t matter – Businesses should make an effort to summarise their terms as part of their customer service.

It is all too common for businesses to hide behind the legal aspects of these documents, suggesting that summarising them is not an adequate replacement, and they never should be. However, an overview serves to highlight the areas of most concern (or not, if that’s the case) so the consumer is prompted to read further on the areas that most affect their rights. This practice already exists in the form of ‘summary of changes’ statements that some companies feature when they review their terms & conditions. LinkedIn is a great example of this, in fact they’re a great example of how to write customer agreements:

screenshot of LinkedIn's privacy policy

It’s an archaic idea to suggest that consumer behaviour is wrong, and that it should change to adhere to legal requirements. Modern business should address human behaviour, it is a well known fact that customers don’t read long legal documents, and that is not something that honest businesses should be happy ignoring. Instead, effort should be made to ensure that customers are aware of business’ policies, and to assist them in understanding why.

image credit: screenshot from LinkedIn’s privacy policy