Tony Bingham has been released into the ether, with a regular blog on Building’s website. Here’s a taster on that big bugbear, small print ...
Terms and conditions may not “protect you, the customer”. In fact, they can be packed with limitations. I am sitting here gawping at a page of small print terms and conditions. No, not because I’m getting paid to – this time I’m about to sign up to a contract for me. My affairs. And damn, I was ever so tempted just to sign and get things moving. I had to give myself a good talking to: “Here you are Bingham, lawyer, barrister, disputomaniac, stealing yourself to read the plethora of small print.”
Eventually I began to do what you should do, but don’t. I began to read the tiny print, the clause headings, the subclauses, the exclusion clauses, the notwithstanding and the ifs and buts. “Sod it,” I said four times. Worse words I said five times. Worst of all, nobody was paying me to do all this!
And all that was for getting into contract with the outfit that “looked” favourite. Fed up with them, I delved into their competitor. Hells bells, they had the same small print. So did a third outfit. They’re all members of the same trade association. So I phoned the association. Yes, by now I have my teeth into this. The consumer affairs officer told me these are the terms and conditions published “to protect you, the customer”.
Hey, wait a minute – the small print is heaving with limitation clauses: “We limit our liability to threepence ha’penny for any one event”. But we offer you an insurance policy to increase the liability, said the consumer affairs officer. In any case, he asked, what do you want instead? I want all the small print knocked out. Instead I simply want the Supply of Goods and Services Act and the common law. “Tricky,” he said. We parted on good terms. “Just ask our association members to omit the small print,” he said. I did. And guess what they said – no chance. So, I’m still gawping ...
Tony Bingham is a barrister and arbitrator
Read Bingham’s all new, regular blog at www.building.co.uk/blogs