Devils in the Details, Struggling to Read the Fine Print
CREATED Apr. 23, 2012
PALM DESERT - We've all struggled to read the fine print. We know it matters. But guess what?
While you struggle to read the tiny type, brace yourself to focus on the font a while longer. That's because consumers are getting hit with more and more information, pages and pages worth, according to experts. Why the overload?
These days, it seems everything comes with warranties, disclaimers and special clauses, more pages than ever--in fine print--that you need to try to decipher. You may have eagle eyes, but with some font so tiny it measures a sixteenth of an inch, how could anyone actually read it? Don't expect changes anytime soon. Companies say they need to include more and more information each day.
"The amount of disclosure that banks and other companies that deal with consumers need to provide to them is just overwhelming," says Attorney Alan Kaplinsky.
So now, your phone may have a 216 page users guide! Or a 32-page information booklet covering everything from the fact that "use of a phone while riding a bicycle may be distracting" to "turn off when in any area with potentially explosive atmosphere."
"You've got this competing demand to comply with all these laws and to do things to make sure you don't become a target of the next class action lawsuit and you can't do both," says Kaplinsky.
While some banking and financial institutions face legal font size requirements most other industries don't! The Center for Plain Language is calling on government agencies and businesses to make agreements understandable and readable. Each year it puts out a list of most confusing documents out there, from health insurance forms to software agreements and car seat installations.
"Nobody's going to read that and understand it without spending days or weeks trying to decipher it," says Henry Maury with the Center for Plain Language
One U.S. Company found less than one in 10,000 Americans actually reads the fine print and it costs the average household up to $3,000 a year in fees and charges.
"Disclosures can affect consumer's rights and so it's important that they be readable," says Richard Cleland with the FTC.
While the FTC keeps a close watch on it, and experts argue about regulations, what it comes down to is people aren't reading them the way they are now.