According to The Norwegian Consumer Council, an average telephone contains 250 000 words of app terms. These terms can be long and complicated to understand, and can create problems for consumers and for those selling or providing the product.
If you for instance buy a service through an app, you should not be bound to the service for ever. Terminating a digital subscription or service should not be complicated, and you should be clearly notified if the provider wants to increase the price or amend the terms of service.
— Terms shall be balanced, says director general of the Norwegian Consumer Authority, Elisabeth Lier Haugseth.
— Consumers shall not have to accept terms that doesn’t respect consumer rights. It is also important that contracts are not too long or written in a complicated language. This can lead to consumers missing out of their rights and obligations. A simple and understandable language can prevent many conflicts.
Facebook, Twitter, Google
European consumer authorities have the last couple of years worked to ensure that large, international companies use fair and balanced terms. Google, Facebook and Twitter recently accepted to change their terms, and will among other things limit their opportunity to amend terms and exclude users from their accounts.
Last year, the dating-app Tinder also changed several terms after demands from The Norwegian Consumer Authority. The company provided Norwegian terms to Norwegian customers and ensured that the data users published in the app was deleted when the account was terminated. They also made the terms shorter and easier to understand.
Start-ups and small companies
The Norwegian Consumer Authority wants to remind all traders of their responsibility – including entrepreneurs that operate alone or in small start-up companies.
— To us, it’s paramount that consumer rights are respected in the digital economy. Providers of digital services will also benefit from working towards clearer and more balanced terms, says Haugseth.
Since January 1st 2018 the Norwegian Consumer Authority sanction traders that break the law more efficiently.
— Our goal is still to get all types of traders, both well established and new, to put in place fair terms that makes it unnecessary for us to engage in hard enforcement, says Haugseth.
Fair terms are important
The Minister of Consumer Affairs Linda Hofstad Helleland (H) says ensuring that consumers are provided with fair contract terms is key.
— It is, by all practical means, impossible for consumers to familiarize themselves with all the contract terms we encounter online. It is therefore important that the Norwegian Consumer Authority is contributing to secure consumer rights by demanding fair terms for digital services, and if necessary impose economic sanctions to companies that do not play by the rules, says Helleland.
Want to know more?
The Norwegian Consumer Authority will host a breakfast meeting with open discussion on digital terms in Oslo, at Kulturhuset Wednesday April 25th at 8.30 am. More information on the meeting will be made available soon.