James Daley

By James Daley

After launching Fairer Finance’s Spare Us the Small Print campaign earlier this week, I promised that I would devote some space on this blog to championing companies who are doing a good job. Today, I want to give some praise to Barclays - the only bank, out of the 18 analysed by Fairer Finance, which scored well both for the language it uses in its Ts & Cs, and also for the layout.

I’m writing this after just doing an interview on Radio 4’s You & Yours, where they read the opening lines of Animal Farm, followed by the opening lines of HSBC’s banking terms and conditions (which are 5,000 words longer than Orwell’s masterpiece). It made the point very well. HSBC is the current market leader in jargon, and while comparing it with George Orwell might not quite be fair game, comparing it with Barclays, one of its big four rivals, is an equally stark contrast.

Shorter, simpler, more accessible

Barclays’ terms and conditions are not exactly concise. But at just under 15,000 words, they are less than half the length of HSBC’s. They are nicely indexed, and nicely laid out - using a reasonably sized font, and enough white space that you can find what you’re looking for.

And the language is plain and simple. I very much doubt that it was written by lawyers. And while I don’t doubt that there were some late night disputes between compliance and the authors of the document – the final result is a victory for common sense.

I imagine that many people still won’t read these terms and conditions. But for those who do, they will not be put off at the first page.

Barclays out on its own...so far

Only one other bank account provider uses language that approaches plain English – and that’s Nationwide. But they let themselves down by not clearly indexing the document. It’s layout is better than most, but not as good as Barclays.

It’s worth pointing out that Barclays still has a lot of work to do in other product areas. It doesn’t fare nearly as well when it comes to insurance products and credit cards. But I’m assured that it is working on these as we speak.

It’s great to see a major high street bank leading the way. If other’s follow suit, we’ll champion them here on this blog as well.