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Small print extends to tens of thousands of words

Small print extends to tens of thousands of words
Date of Publication: Tuesday, 22 April 2014 13:01

The small print on some personal finance products has more words than a university dissertation or short novel, according to a new panel.

Fairer Finance has accused insurance companies of producing long and pointless documents that are rarely read by consumers.

 

Endsleigh’s car insurance policy extends to almost 38,000 words, the site discovered, while the documents from Sheila’s Wheels and Esure also top 30,000 words.

 

But some policies, such as those issued by Liverpool Victoria (LV), contain less than a quarter of this word count.

 

James Daley, who launched Fairer Finance last month, questioned the usefulness of long documents, after a survey revealed that less than a third of consumers regularly read through the terms and conditions.

 

“What exactly is the point of these documents?” he asked.

 

“If one company can do the job in less than 7,000 words, there is no excuse for insurers who are producing documents that are five times as long.”

 

Bank Accounts

The small print on bank accounts is another source of long terms, the site says.

 

It found that the terms and conditions from Metro Bank, NatWest, Halifax, and the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society all exceed 25,000 words.

 

HSBC’s bank account terms total more than 34,000 words.

 

Incredibly, Danske Bank manages to double this, with 111 pages containing 70,000 words.

 

Fairer Finance says that the jargon needs to be stripped out of the small print to leave accessible documents that are not off-putting.

 

The site suggests that it is in providers’ own interests to simplify their terms because they are becoming increasingly unable to rely upon them when complaints are taken to the independent adjudicator.

 

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) regularly takes a stance that terms buried in the small print do not represent full disclosure of information.

 

"The industry needs to have a rethink about what information it needs to get across to its customers, and what is the best way to do that," Mr Daley said.

 

"Too often, compliance managers and lawyers talk banks and insurers into throwing the kitchen sink into these documents, which reduces the chance of the small print ever being read."

 

Keith McDonald

Which4U Editor

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Tuesday, 22 April 2014 13:01
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