Yorkshire consumers left confused by small print, says Information Commissioner’s Office
Feb 20 2009 by Henryk Zientek, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
MORE than half of Yorkshire consumers don’t understand what they’re signing up to when they fill in forms, a survey has revealed.
Research by the Information Commissioner’s Office showed that consumers in the region were cynical about the motives of firms which include lots of small print on their paper and online forms.
Now the ICO has stepped up efforts to persuade organisations to make “small print” easier to read and understand.
The ICO survey found that half of Yorkshire consumers believe small print on forms is deliberately designed to be as “woolly” as possible – while 45% see small print simply as a way for firms to make money by selling on customers’ details.
Asked what measures they would like to see to make small print easier to digest, two-thirds of people polled want to see a clearer way of opting out of receiving “junk mail” while 67% want less “jargon”.
Some 68% want a clearer explanation of how their personal information would be used while almost half want to see small print become “big print” by the use of larger text.
Worryingly, three-quarters of those surveyed in Yorkshireadmitted to not properly reading small print.
The ICO has launched a ‘small print BIG PRINT’ campaign urging people to take the time to read and understand marketing and privacy notices to prevent their information being used in ways they do not expect – and avoid being bombarded by marketing they’ve not knowingly requested.
The ICO said it was concerned that too many companies baffled customers signing up for things like store cards and services with lengthy and unnecessary legalese.
Information commissioner Richard Thomas said: “Too many privacy notices involve too much small print and too much confusing ‘gobbledegook’.
“Privacy notices are an important way to inform individuals and ensure that organisations are open about how they use personal information.
“But no one should need a magnifying glass or a lawyer to find out what will happen to their information, what their choices are and what their rights are.”
Said Mr Thomas: “Too many privacy notices are written to protect organisations, rather than to inform consumers. What chance do people have if privacy notices are written in complex legalese? How can you make an informed decision without understanding what you are signing up to?
“Organisations should only collect the minimum of personal information and they must explain what they will do with it in clear, plain language.”
Visit www.ico.gov.uk for a Personal Information Toolkit or take the ICO’s Personal Information Healthcheck for tailored advice on managing your personal information.