A survey by 574 ISPreview readers reveals that many customers are confused about the terms and conditions of broadband service agreements. More than four-fifths of those who took part in the survey said that they find user agreements too lengthy and difficult to understand. Besides the length, the use of legalistic language was the main cause of customer dissatisfaction. These factors help explain why almost a third of those surveyed said they sign these agreements without reading through them. Presumably they rely on the information provided by the service providers’ representatives.
While the findings of this survey are worth considering it is important to offer an addendum. The number of people surveyed represents a tiny sample of British broadband service customers. Statisticians base their analysis on much larger samples. Perhaps a survey of 10,000 people would produce different results?
Risky Broadband Customer Behavior
Although there is no doubt many people find it hard to read through service terms and conditions, it pays to make the effort. Every customer needs to know details of service fees, customer obligations, service limitations and similar important information. These details directly affect broadband costs. They also influence the user experience.
Signing on with a service provider without knowing all the terms and conditions is taking the kind of risk people do not usually take with other commercial arrangements. If the document is too complex the customer should ask the service provider representative to go through it paragraph by paragraph and explain it clearly. If they want to make a sale the representative ought to be willing to put in the extra time this requires
Getting Service Providers to Simply their Terms and Conditions
Ideally every business agreement, not just broadband service terms and conditions, should be written out in plain English. While some might suspect service providers conspire against the public to confuse them with complicated agreements, the law leaves them little option. They are obliged to state out their terms and conditions in a certain legalistic manner. The same applies to insurance policies, bank accounts, house purchase agreements and a host of other official documents people need to read and sign. Nobody argues the broadband service agreements are less clear than these other types of agreements.
Undoubtedly efforts can be made to improve the presentation of broadband service terms and conditions. Some suggest that tables summarizing charges and penalties would be very helpful. Perhaps the service providers could also enlist the help of the Plain English Campaign to improve the language of their agreements without compromising their legal obligations?