Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Small Print

Sign here...

I hate being made to feel like a liar. But I bet most of you have lied within the last couple of weeks (or months, depending upon your habits) doing the simplest things.

I updated iTunes a couple of weeks ago. Hadn't done it in a while, as my mobile broadband is precious. However I was at my favourite wi-fi cafe and sucked an update down with my Americano (hold the milk). Before installing the update I was asked to agree to the terms and conditions. I was taught to always read the fine print. So I scanned my way down the front page nodding vague agreement with the legal terms and saw no reason to disagree. But at the end of that first page it advised that there were 52 more pages of T&Cs to read. 52 pages!

Needless to say I clicked 'agree' and proceeded with the install, but there remains a gnarly anxiety deep inside that I'm headed for a fall. A rip-off at least. You see, Apple has my credit card details. My iTunes Store account needs one to operate. They don't trust that you're only ever going to download the free stuff. No, they need to know they can slug you at will. So I've blindly agreed to 52 pages of terms and conditions that could very well be hooking me up to future charges I have no idea about. And when it gets to court some hessian-headed barrister is going to ask why I agreed to the terms and conditions. And then I am going to open fire with a semi-automatic weapon.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK here have released guidelines instructing companies to avoid hiding unexpected twists in the fine print. All well and good for the OFT to suggest this, but there's no guarantee companies won't. And who's idea of an unexpected twist is going to provide the litmus test for this?

Take for example one of my pet hates. Telecommunication companies. Why? Because they charge you exorbitant amounts of money for literally nothing. My favourite, O2, whose name literally means air. And that's all they're giving you, folks. And I just so happen to have a mobile phone connected to the O2 network. It is diabolical. They charge you an absolute (relative) fortune to send pictures via MMS, that then never show up. I'm so glad I have a new whiz-bang phone that can do almost everything, except that the network is so slow (even on the rare occasion I have strong network reception indicated) I may as well have kept my old T28 (now THERE was a phone). So apparently they way O2 bill MMS has arbitrarily changed from a number of charged txts to a separate charge regardless of any free txt quota on your contract. I have already seen, today, some O2 apologist use the doozy 'it was in your terms and conditions'. You know what you can do with your terms and conditions?

So basically (I'm going to try to wrap this rant up, otherwise it will continue to meander angrily towards hyperventilation), we are all being forced into lying ourselves into a position where we can be molested even further by telecommunications companies.

Ain't life grand. I suppose if I tried to resort to smoke signals I'd get arrested for arson.

Adios, amigos.


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