Gerry Barker calls it the biggest lie on the Internet.
That’s what routinely occurs when you blindly click “accept” to an online retailer’s terms and conditions of service without actually reading the fine print before making a purchase.
Not only are you fudging over the daunting details, but failing to read and understand them can be hazardous to your financial health. You could be incurring expensive charges, and unknowingly be agreeing to dispensing personal information and relinquishing certain consumer rights.
That’s where Barker comes in.
The marketing company owner from Cheshire, Conn. has launched a website called TermSafe (http://www.termsafe.com/). It’s aimed at encouraging consumers to take time to read the terms of service agreements that we’re prompted to pay attention to before making a purchase order and checking out.
Barker is especially concerned about teens and other young shoppers who may not understand website and retailing legalese.
Barker said he was motivated by family experiences to create TermSafe in 2014. When he was growing up, his father would tell him time and again that it was never smart to sign any agreement or contract without reading it.
Then after an online experience with his own children, Barker realized that not only were they not reading the details but that “nobody was reading these.”
“I want to help people, and call out those (companies) who are out to hurt people,” Barker said.
TermSafe offers free critiques of company website terms and conditions statements. It’s one of several consumer-oriented online services that provide such information.
Though still in its infancy, TermSafe has reviewed more than 100 company policies. The companies include Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Best Buy, ESPN, Google, Microsoft, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, and Netflix. If a company is not on TermSafe’s list, you can request a review, which should appear in sbout two days.
Barker relies on eight reviewers — two per review — to read the statements and provide non-legal opinions on areas and specific terms that a shopper should know about.
Though there’s no ranking system, reviewers are generally looking for clear, concise policies. They typically flag 20 items for scrutiny, including refund and return policies, recurring charges, hidden fees, and any international shipping charges that could be costly.
For example, the review of GoDaddy highlighted non-refundable fees and recurring charges; a review of the terms and conditions from the Spotify music sharing service noted its policies on refunds and the sharing of personal information.
“We’re not saying you shouldn’t buy from them,” said Barker, “But you should be aware” of what you’re agreeing to.
Despite the scrutiny, Barker believes most companies are not trying to deceive and bully. In fact, he’s hoping that companies will someday display a TermSafe shield of approval.
A thorough reading of these statements is always the best course of action. But for those who don’t, there are handy services such as TermSafe.
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