1. Home
  2. tech
  3. news
  4. Nobody reads website T&Cs even when there's free stuff involved — these guys proved it

Nobody reads website T&Cs even when there's free stuff involved — these guys proved it

Mia Jankowicz   

Nobody reads website T&Cs even when there's free stuff involved — these guys proved it
  • A think tank hid a free bottle of wine in its website's terms and conditions.
  • They aimed to see if anyone actually reads privacy policies. It took three months to be claimed.

It might just be worth reading those T&Cs after all.

In February, UK think tank Tax Policy Associates snuck a tempting offer into one of the clauses on its website's terms and conditions, to see if anybody would actually notice.

"This website uses cookies so it remembers your name if you leave a comment. You can reject them if you like," the privacy policy read. "We will send a bottle of good wine to the first person to read this."

The think tank's founder, Dan Neidle, said on X on Thursday that someone had finally claimed the bottle.

"Our ongoing experiment into whether anyone reads website T&Cs continues," he wrote, adding that the wine "just got claimed."

Neidle told the BBC that the T&Cs stunt was "my childish protest that all businesses have to have a privacy policy and no-one reads it."

The website's privacy policy has since been updated to say: "We know nobody reads this."

Amusingly, the person who claimed the bottle was only reading it because they were writing their own T&Cs and needed examples to follow, Neidle told the BBC.

The wine he sent out, per the BBC, was a 2013-2014 bottle of Château de Sales, which retails for about $44.

So-called "gotcha clauses" have been around for a while, highlighting a seemingly intractable problem in digital life.

In 2014, a security firm added what it called a "Herod clause" into a public wi-fi network's terms and conditions.

Six people signed up to "assign their first born child to us for the duration of eternity," in order to access the wi-fi, as The Guardian reported at the time.

The authors of one 2017 study found that 98% of participants signed up to similarly onerous terms.

Neidle said he was inspired by the legendary clause that Van Halen buried in their tour rider, according to the BBC.

At each stop, the group demanded a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out — not because they were pampered, but because it would prove that the host venue was paying attention to more crucial safety and technical aspects of their show.

"It was a brilliant strategy to see if people were paying attention," Neidle told the BBC.

There are many reasons why few people read T&Cs, marketing experts Jeff Rotman and Paul Harrison wrote in The Conversation last year.

People tend to trust that large companies won't screw them over and that any problems would have already been spotted and dealt with before, they said.

They also said that evidence suggests that people are slightly more likely to read them if they're perceived as short, if they're spending a lot of money, or if they think they'll have a chance to influence the terms of the contract.

Popular Right Now