5 Reasons Why Terms and Conditions Suck

Ugis Pilabers

Nobody likes terms and conditions. Users don’t like reading them. Lawyers don’t like writing them. Businesses don’t like to bother with them.

The same goes for privacy policies.

At the end of the day, however, they’re legally binding documents. It doesn’t matter that you don’t read or even see them. Just by, for example, using a website you tacitly agree to whatever conditions it sets out in its policies.

Sure, mostly you’re just allowing companies to do whatever they want with your data, but, as bad as that is, it could be so much worse and you would probably never find out, because, let’s be real – have you ever read a T&Cs or privacy policy all the way through? Only 1% of people do and even that might be a generous number.

“I have read and agree to Terms of Service” is probably the most common lie ever told.

Here at RockTerms, we want to change that. We want to make T&Cs understandable for users. To do that, we want to make it easy for lawyers and companies to create accessible documents.

Why? Because the current state of most T&Cs and privacy policies is unacceptable.

1. Nobody understands what's going on

The vast majority of privacy policies are so riddled with technical jargon that the average person will be unable to even understand what’s written. Having tight blocks of texts, CONFUSING CAPITALIZATIONS, and sometimes more words than books, all amount to a near-guarantee that nobody will read the text.

On top of that, T&Cs and privacy policies can change at any time. Unless the website has your email, which most won’t, then you probably won’t find out about the changes. So even if you did due diligence for your favorite website and somehow pushed through the swarms of legal clauses – everything might have changed the next day and you wouldn’t even know it.

2. They're complicated on purpose

By now, most people simply assume that the T&Cs and privacy policies contain something about using your data. But, without reading the legal documents, you won’t know what data specifically is collected (and transferred or sold to third parties).

For example, when you think of Instagram using your personal data, you probably imagine them collecting and sharing data about your profile, time spent online, details about who you follow, and other seemingly benign information.

However, IG’s Privacy Policy also specifies that the information it collects includes “messages you send and receive, including their content” what they define as “activity”. Further, Instagram’s Privacy Policy states that “to decide what to show you and others” (they mean ads) “we use information we have about you, including your …” (wait a minute) “activity on and off our products”.

In other words, it would appear that they’re allowed to analyze all your communications both public and private. And you give them permission to do that when you accept their Privacy Policy.

Facebook (“We collect the content and other information you provide when you (..) message or communicate with others”) and TikTok (“When you communicate with others using direct messages, we collect the content of the message and the associated metadata”) have similar clauses in their policies.

What do these companies do with your “private” communication data? They say they use it to improve their products and share it with a variety of third-party partners, among other things.

If this were common knowledge, people might be significantly more careful about the type of information they communicate online in settings they might assume to be private.

By writing complicated and unreadable privacy policies, companies stow away scary clauses and information in places where nobody’s going to find them.

3. Not suitable for kids

Did you know that 25% of TikTok users in the U.S. are 10-19 years old? And how many of them, do you think, read and understood TikTok’s Terms of Service? If they’re anything like British children, then that number is somewhere around 0%.

With today’s kids glued to their devices and quick to install the latest trendy app, they’re accepting T&Cs and privacy policies left, right, and center, without the slightest understanding of what’s actually going on.

Even if, by some miracle, a 13-year-old would decide to read through their freshly-installed app’s privacy policy, chances are it would be completely inaccessible due to the complexity of the language.

The NY Times read through over 150 privacy policies of top brands and concluded that most exceed the college reading level. If well-rounded adults struggle to comprehend what’s going on, what chance does a kid have?

4. Creating policies isn't too fun either

Having spent over a decade in the industry, I can tell you that T&Cs are a hassle. Not so much the writing part – that gets pretty standard after a while. Rather the management of the whole process is outdated and companies could save a lot of money on it if they wanted to.

First and foremost, writing longer texts takes more time and, hence, is more expensive. The same applies to translation where a pay-per-word model is common practice – the shorter the document, the lower the costs. With shorter documents for translation, there’s also an added bonus of leaving less room for mistakes.

If a lawyer wants to include visuals (as recommended by the European GDPR or requested by the UK’s Children’s Code), designers usually need to play a part. And developers also have to get involved in publishing the document/changes to the website or app. The need for communication and inter-departmental collaboration bogs down the entire process and it’s not uncommon for it to take months for a single change to go live.

Clearly, terms and conditions don’t just suck for users. They’re a struggle for everybody involved. (Not with RockTerms, though.)

5. They don't actually have to suck

That’s right, the only thing worse than the complexity of T&Cs is the fact that it’s completely unnecessary. You could simplify everything BOTH linguistically and managerially and, as a company, still have a legally air-tight document that fulfills exactly the same function and is 30-50% shorter, and 100% more understandable.

Writing in Legalese is a pervasive issue that goes far beyond just T&Cs of websites and is also the norm in government documents, laws, legal agreements, etc. As Alan Seigel puts it in his TED talk, this “complexity … has a dramatically negative impact on our lives”. Seigel demonstrates how documents can be simplified to ensure “clarity, transparency, and empathy” in communication between institutions/companies and users.

In step with Seigel’s vision, RockTerms wants to do away with unnecessary complexity in legal docs. And we’re here to help website owners achieve exactly that.

Enter RockTerms

Whether you’re a small business that needs to get their website’s legal documents in order ASAP, or an established company tired of legal workflows that belong in 1999, RockTerms will help you make the virtual world a kinder environment for you and your users.

RockTerms is a tool that helps you build website and app legal documents with icons and without the legal jargon.

Save yourself a headache by using our drag-and-drop builder to create user-friendly, GDPR- and CCPA-compliant legal documents from scratch or based on our templates. Make your privacy policies stand out by customizing them visually with icons. Manage everything in one place – create docs, collaborate on them, add translations, inform users about policy updates, and more.

Let’s work together to get rid of bad legal docs and make policies that rock!

Start creating for free.

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