We all do it. Tick the box stating that we have read and agree the terms and conditions before placing an order. Mostly we get away with it, but in the last week or so I have come across several dodgy contracts produced to make extra money for the business at the expense of the customer.
The first example was a hotel in South London that a relative booked for two nights. He paid the £126 cost, but did not actually end up using the room or even visiting it. A good deal for the hotel you might think. No laundry costs or cleaning and no breakfast eaten.
But also because he did not stay in the room he did not check out either. He got a call about an hour after he should have checked out and was told another £10 would be charged to his credit card for the late departure. He explained he had not used the room so that it could be used immediately by a new guest.
£10 an hour for nothing
There followed a number of other angry calls from the hotel pointing out that the terms and conditions stated that he would be fined £10 an hour until the room card was presented to the reception. In other words a cheap hotel room would cost £240 a day.
It took another day to resolve the issue. The hotel did not say whether it had let the room or not. But as it had not suffered a loss as a consequence of the non check out it could not legally enforce the charge.
This was explained and had the hotel been intransigent the next step would have been to alert the credit card company that a wrongful charge had been made on the card.
Many guests could pay dear
Many of the hotel’s guests would have been leaving the country via Gatwick and might not have known about the extra charges until they got home.
The lesson is to read the small print. And indeed the print can be very small. Another case drawn to my attention involved a contract that had terms and conditions so tiny that I needed a magnifying glass to read them all.
A third contract I saw earlier this month was all about the cost of the service being bought and the salesman had ticked the box saying the customer had read and agreed with the terms and conditions, when he had not seen them. When he finally asked for a copy of the 14 page terms and conditions he discovered that they excluded most of the things he wanted.
Find out the restrictions before things go wrong
When we buy rail or air tickets, book hotels, buy anything online most of us just tick the box saying that we have read and understood the terms and conditions. But only find out what restrictions there are when things go wrong.
If the document runs to many pages maybe we should not sign the contract that is intended to restrict us and cost us dear.