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Nine hours of 'conditions apply'

CHOICE says global companies need to stop pushing consumers into signing off on long, unreadable online contracts.

CHOICE is calling on the federal government to stop companies from forcing consumers to accept tens-of-thousands of words of complex requirements just to use a product, after a review of e-reader terms and conditions found it would take you nine hours to read the Amazon Kindle Ts & Cs.

"In practice ticking a box to accept a contractual agreement with Amazon only takes a few seconds but what you're really being asked to do is stop and read eight hours and 59 minutes of fine print. The length and complexity of these contracts is completely unreasonable," says CHOICE head of media, Tom Godfrey.

"Right now, the law protects us from unfair legal terms. But we think the practice of expecting a customer to spend hours of their lives reading a contract for a simple product is unfair. Companies need to do better and they should be explaining any conditions in a way that's simple and easy to read."

CHOICE's review of Amazon Kindle's 73,198-word terms and conditions found it included several clauses that would likely be deemed unfair under Australian Consumer Law. The other major e-reader brand on the market, Kobo, had 9844 words in its Ts & Cs.

"It's absolutely ridiculous that Amazon presents Kindle customers with over 73,000 words in the Ts & Cs – more than a lot of books – just to set up an e-reader. Companies such as Amazon know that consumers want to make a purchase as quickly as possible, and they use this desire as cover to offload some worrying Ts & Cs," Mr Godfrey says.

"One particularly concerning clause in the Amazon contract locks consumers into an arbitration process in the United States if they have an unresolved problem with their Kindle. [1]  The fact is, under Australian Consumer Law if the Kindle is faulty you have a right to a remedy direct from the retailer or manufacturer without heading state-side.

"However a clause supposedly forcing you into overseas arbitration is likely to leave consumers confused about their legal rights.

"We want to see an end to companies like Amazon muddying the waters around consumer rights and are asking for legislative change which will prevent businesses from hiding these  terms in lengthy, difficult to read contracts.

"Our latest investigation into unfair contract terms comes on World Consumer Rights Day, 55 years after John F Kennedy made a speech to the US Congress outlining his vision of consumer rights. But still today, the fight for basic consumer rights continues.

"With some of the world's biggest brands giving you contracts with unfair terms, dodging their responsibilities when a product is unsafe and facing meaningless fines if they break the law, we still have a lot to do."

CHOICE is calling for a ban on contracts that are overly long or are written in indecipherable legal terminology.

You can read more about CHOICE's campaign to improve Australian Consumer Law at choice.com.au/consumerlaw and join the conversation on #betterdigitalworld.

Consumers can enjoy all nine hours of Amazon Kindle's Ts & Cs live read by an actor at https://youtu.be/6QZml7sPbVU.

Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

About CHOICE and Consumers International

CHOICE is a member of Consumers International, the group that champions the rights of consumers at an international level and brings together consumer advocates from across the globe: consumersinternational.org/our-work/wcrd/

As part of the celebrations to mark World Consumer Rights day, member organisations around the world are running campaigns in their regions to create a #betterdigitalworld.

[1] https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201374360