Are consumer regulations keeping up with how we use technology?

Are consumer regulations keeping up with how we use technology?

According to Ofcom's recent 2015 Communications Market Report, smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular online device in the UK.

Sacha Wilson, an associate at Bristows LLP, considers some of the legal implications of this trend.

Does this development augur an eventual shrinking of terms and conditions (T&Cs)?

The fact that consumers are now more likely to go online using a smartphone rather than a laptop is unlikely, in itself, to cause a 'shrinking' of T&Cs. The current length and complexity of online consumer facing T&Cs is often a symptom of the process by which these types of T&Cs are drafted.

Taking mobile apps as an example, in practice there can often be a disconnect between mobile app developers and legal counsel. This disconnect means that the T&Cs can be drafted in isolation of the app development process and merely added to the app as an afterthought.

This can result in overly long and complex T&Cs being drafted as lawyers are traditionally more inclined to err on the side of legal conservatism as opposed to aiming for a positive user experience. [To this end, check out our post on drafting terms and conditions and our post on multi-layering.]

It is still therefore a common occurrence for consumers using a smartphone to be required to scroll through several screens worth of T&Cs before being able to access a service.

This problem has been identified by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which recommends in its Unfair Contract Terms Guidance that every detail of information about an agreement doesn't necessarily always have to be included in a single contract document.

The CMA also advises that relying solely on lengthy T&Cs to communicate with consumers may be positively unhelpful. However, a significant proportion of lawyers still seem to take the view that it is better to be safe than sorry and as a result produce lengthy and overly comprehensive T&Cs.

What does this mean for website accessibility and ensuring that people with limited eyesight can access websites?

While technological developments such as haptic feedback and text-to-speech software on smartphones can present opportunities to improve accessibility, it is al

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