Red tape redux
I want to buy a house. I need a home loan for £250,000. I approach First Direct, a direct retail bank in the UK, owned by HSBC. I know that I will have to accept from them a comprehensive and rigorous set of terms and conditions. After all, I am borrowing a quarter of a million pounds and mortgages in the UK are highly regulated.
First Direct’s terms and conditions for my mortgage are a comprehensive, rigorous and exhaustive 4,480 words.
And here is where things get cockeyed. To download the nutty boys’ masterpiece, I have to read and accept iTune’s terms and conditions. These run to 14,451 words.
Apple expect me to plough through 3 times more verbiage than was needed for my £250,000 mortgage, just for a 99p song.
This can’t be right.
A novel experience
Legally, I am supposed to read Apple’s terms and conditions before I can install iTunes. But, like most of us, I haven’t.
If I have that kind of time available, I’ll read a book.
It gets worse. Every time Apple updates iTunes, every couple of months or so, they require that I read these conditions again. This is neither practical nor reasonable.
Lawyers: enemies of customer experience
So First Direct, a UK retail bank, is offering a customer experience three times better than Apple’s. What’s going on?
The most obvious explanation is that Apple has let their lawyers off the leash. This is bad for the customer experience because most general counsel are required to think of the customer as the enemy. Corporate lawyers stay awake at night making sure customers don’t sue or rip-off or defraud or have grounds for compensation.
Giving the customer a good reading experience is not top of their insomnia list.
Someone, however, is doing something to make this particular experience better for customers of a range of companies, including, they say, Apple.
Terms of Service: Didn’t Read (ToS:DR) offers a free plug-in to browsers that rates terms and conditions on a five point scale (A- Green to E- Red) depending on the degree to which a particular set of terms and conditions require us to sign away our rights. It ‘s like a Reader’s Digest version of the terms and conditions to which we have to agree.
This seems to me to be an eminently sensible solution to this problem. I will sign up to ToS:DR straightaway – just as soon as I read their terms and conditions (409 words)…
So it goes.
PS Some may think that I am singling out Apple unfairly. Perhaps, but by way of comparison, Google’s terms and conditions of service come in at 2,966 words, Facebook’s are 4,643 and Amazon, 5,269. (Word counts come courtesy of my browser’s cut and paste function and MS Word’s word count facility).
PPS This post comes in at 539 words. If this was iTune’s terms and conditions, you’d be only 5% of the way through by now…
Image credit: Rosser 1954, released into the public domain.