James Daley

By James Daley

What's the point of small print? According to a new survey by our independent polling partners, Opinium, only 27% of people read the terms and conditions of products like bank accounts, credit cards and loans in full. And of those who are brave enough to give it a go - only 17% said that they understood it all (And I wonder how many of them are lawyers?).

At Fairer Finance, our researchers are given the unenviable task of wading through the small print of every car, home and travel insurance policy, as well as every credit card, bank account and personal loan. The length of some of these documents is quite staggering. Danske Bank's bank account terms and conditions, for example, run to an astonishing 111 pages, and contain almost 70,000 words - that's twice the length of Hamlet. If you were to sit down and read them, it would take you around seven and a half hours.

So what exactly is the point of these documents? Well, banks will tell you that much of what is contained in their terms and conditions is information that they have to disclose to you. But if no one's reading the document, then they can't honestly say that they have told you this information. Certainly that's the view that the Financial Ombudsman Service takes. If you complain against a company for not treating you well, and the company points to page 78 of its terms and conditions, claiming that it made it very clear that it had the right to treat you badly, the Ombudsman is unlikely to be swayed. These kind of cases always end up being ruled in the customer's favour.

There are no easy solutions to this. The truth of the matter is that financial products are often complicated, and it's important that all the details are laid out clearly to customers before they buy. But why can't we have short and simple documents, and leave the legalese out altogether?

Fairer Finance is campaigning for a banks and insurers to step up to this challenge and spare us the small print.

If you'd like to support our campaign, head over to our campaign page and click the button at the bottom of the screen.