T&Cs typically represent a set of contractual obligations as defined by your ISP, which you must accept when joining their service. Related contract terms cannot overrule your statutory rights as a consumer but that doesn't stop some ISPs from hiding nasty conditions inside the small print, such as hidden charges or usage limits (e.g. fees for paying via Credit Card instead of Direct Debit).
Overall the survey found that 32% of respondents didn't read the T&Cs when joining their broadband ISP, while 34% claimed to have read most of the text and 33% admittedly to reading a small portion of the document. However, when asked how easy the T&Cs were to understand, some 46% of respondents felt they were of an "average" difficulty, while 45% described them as "hard" and only 9% said they were "easy".
"There's little doubt that for many people, sometimes even those who claim to understand the related documents, reading the T&Cs for a service can often feel like being exposed to several pages of the most horrendous gobbledygook, albeit without the ability to avert your gaze for fear that you might miss some vital piece of information. Failing to do so could result in you being stung by something unexpected at a later date," said ISPreview.co.uk's Founder, Mark Jackson.
The survey also asked respondents which aspect of their ISPs T&Cs annoyed them the most, with the sheer length of related text and its confusing legal speak dominating the results.
What is your main gripe with T&Cs?
They're just too long! - 52.6%
Confusing words / legal speak - 32.2%
Small font / text size - 8.7%
Other - 3.3%
Poorly labelled content - 3.1%
"Unfortunately T&Cs, being reflective of a legal agreement, aren't easy to simplify and it doesn't help that some services can be associated with several different sets of terms (e.g. Fair Usage Policies, Acceptable Usage Policy etc.), all of which can be very confusing."
"Never the less there are some things that ISPs could do to help improve the situation, such as listing all additional charges or penalties in a separate table on the document and making sure that each section is clearly marked and correctly sized, as opposed to lumping everything together in one giant mass of ugly small print. We'd avoid ISPs that do the latter. Ofcom could certainly do more to encourage good practice," added Jackson.