Reading the fine print risk management

Terms and conditions. Terms of use. Cardholder agreement. Just like Satan, the fine print has many names.

The Guardian reported in May 2011 that only “7% of people actually read the full terms when buying a product or service online, while a fifth say they have suffered from not doing so.” The article describes how many of us get locked into longer contracts that we didn’t want or unwanted items. We don’t know our rights.

We all do it (well, actually 93% of us do it) whether we are installing software on a pc or an app on a BlackBerry, we just scroll the bottom and push “Accept” without reading what we are agreeing to. Occasionally my credit card company will send me a tiny booklet with the new rules about using my card which goes from envelope to hand to the recycling box. For all I know I have agreed to sell my first born or to join the Republican Party.

(Like risk management) we all know it’s important but apparently only 7% of us really take this seriously. Nobody cares what that fine print says; we just want to accept and install and start playing Warcraft. Well nobody cares except the 7% of the population which went to law school.

Each of us is probably at risk of being fined or sued in hundreds of different ways by hundreds of different vendors right now.  Just think about how many agreements we sign (credit cards, bank cards, rewards cards) or how many times we do a Google search for photos and put it on our Facebook profiles or on our blogs? Who can keep track of all those terms and conditions? Who knows the all of the rules?

While I sit here writing this, I have just received an email with the subject line: “Important update about your Kodak Gallery account”. I didn’t even remember having one. I don’t know the terms of that use.

As I was saying it may sound ridiculous but despite your belief that use of a photo (while including the source or the owner) is benign, have you just violated the terms and conditions of Google, Facebook or the rightful owner of the picture? It seems that photo or document belongs to someone and despite seemingly harmless use, nothing is stopping them from coming after you to take their “pound of flesh”. (Phrase courtesy of the Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare, 1596. Don’t sue me.)

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