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The Devil’s in the detail

By Steven | April 28, 2010

How often do you check those website boxes that say “I’ve read the terms and conditions below and agree to them”?

Now, how often do you actually read the terms and conditions? Me neither.

Had we signed up to Gamestation on April Fool’s day, we would have been agreeing to this:

By placing an order via this web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul.

And this:

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. We reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction. 

Nice.

Of course, nobody picked it up. It’s a beaut little demonstration of the fact that no-one bothers to read them. They’re probably still binding on us, though. Having ticked the box and all.

What about all those websites that don’t require us to expressly accept the terms and conditions, which will probably just sit under a little-clicked link headed “terms and conditions”? Are they binding on us? Perhaps not. A US court recently ruled that a manifestation of intent to consent was needed before a visitor could be held to a particular condition on the site (ie that they accept Colorado’s jurisdiction over disputes concerning the site). Question: if the particular condition (or the existence of the conditions) was sufficiently prominent, might revisiting the site later – this time, one assumes, aware of the clause – amount to consent?

Topics: Internet issues | 42 Comments »

42 Responses to “The Devil’s in the detail”

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    April 28th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    I think it’s interesting that Apple update the terms and conditions of the iTunes store at least once a month, and although they give you a tick box, those T&Cs come to about 96 long pages on a little iPhone screen. I don’t think “the reasonable man” would [i]ever[/i] read all that information every few weeks so that they can access a system which is supposed to be quick and convenient.
    I honestly feel like if there were a manifestly unreasonable clause hidden inside an agreement like that, the courts would find that it was misleading and deceptive conduct in trade.

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