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Published April 6th 2016

Industry Opinion: Don’t Hide Your Dirty Laundry in T&Cs

If you have to spatter your terms and conditions with jargon and legalese, Chris Owen's got a few words for you.

Earlier this week I had the delight of selling my phone to one of those online outfits that recycles them – I’ve used such sites before and always had the full value of the quote given by the companies concerned.

However, this time, the six-month old handset I sent off to iGadgets Recycled came back not with the couple of hundred pounds quoted but just £71 – patronisingly bumped up a meagre amount when I said what a poor offer it was, compared with what I was quoted.

Note, when submitting your handset, you’re asked if it’s working or not working. Not whether it’s ‘pristine’ or ‘not pristine’.


The reason for the massive downfall in price was apparently due to scuffing on the side of the handset – the metallic paint had tarnished, natural given it’s six months old – and there was one tiny scratch.

The phone works. It matches the criteria. I asked for a breakdown showing how the money is reduced so massively, but to date no reply has come back.

So I asked for it back. Oh, turns out I have to pay for my own phone to be returned.

So I just swore at them and told them to just screw it, send me the money, and I’ll just make a note never to sell to them again.

An all too common problem

Turns out additionally, that the tiny T&Cs about paying to get your phone back pop up briefly while completing an order, and the ‘this is just a quotation’ bit is also within these T&Cs, but it doesn’t say this is for pristine – only for “working, not damaged”.

Let’s be honest, no-one goes through T&Cs – they’re often vast, often jargon heavy, and rarely bothered with, (indeed, one cartoonist has beautifully turned Apple’s into a graphic novel).

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 09.23.01

But this shouldn’t excuse them being manipulated as a way to hide things you’ll later hoodwink customers over once you have their device.

Had I known about the refund fee, (or, granted, read more about the company, which has some pretty awful reviews), I’d have gone elsewhere.

But I didn’t, not until I’d gone through the rigmarole of setting myself up, registering everything and filling in forms. So I just clicked through.


Transparency and the customer relationship

I’m basically writing my own naivety obituary here, I know that – but the whole thing just irks me.

If you have to hide something which hoodwinks your customers in your T&Cs to cover your lying asses, then you might want to have a look in the mirror and wonder whether this should sit within your business practices, or whether you should perhaps treat your customers with a bit more respect.



From ITUNES TERMS AND CONDITIONS: The Graphic Novel, by R. Sikoryak


I’ve waxed lyrical about transparency before – it remains critical to good customer service, and a great reputation.

Brands shouldn’t use T&Cs as ass-covering legalese you then renege on when the customer is left with little other option than to accept what’s now on the table.

Treat customers as you’d like to be treated yourself. If you have to hide something in T&Cs, maybe the issue isn’t ‘where to hide it’ but ‘should this be part of our customer relationship?’

Chris is a regular contributor to the Brandwatch Blog. Find out more about M&C Saatchi by clicking here.

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