Reading the small print

A Guardian survey shows just 7% of people read the full terms when buying a product or service online, while a fifth say they have suffered from not doing so

Nearly six in 10 (58%) adults said they would rather read an instruction manual or their utility or credit card bill than go through online terms, and more than one in 10 (12%) would rather read the phone book. Meanwhile, 43% of those who don't always read the terms and conditions say they are boring or difficult to understand. But by failing to check the small print they are in the dark about their rights, until something goes wrong.

Locked into a contract

Just over a fifth (21%) of people surveyed said they had suffered as a result of ticking the terms and conditions box without having done their homework. One in 10 found themselves locked into a longer contract than expected because they signed up without reading the small print, and one in 20 lost money by not being able to cancel or amend hotel or holiday bookings.

Joanne Lezemore, senior lawyer at Which? Legal Service, said: "The advice is simple: always read the terms and conditions of any contract before you sign it."

"It is really important you understand everything before you sign on the dotted line, as you could find yourself landed with extra fees or charges. While all consumer contracts are subject to the unfair terms in consumer contract regulations, this doesn't mean you can challenge a clause just because you didn't know it was there, or you think it's unfair - because it's clearly written, you're bound by it."

Comparing offers

Headlines in marketing material seldom tell the whole story and financial products are not uniform. Knowing how they work does not cover all the nuances. It's very tempting to read what we want to hear - but careful investigation is to be advised. Desperation may lead us to a short term loan (pay day loan) but again, we do need to understand what it is we're letting ourselves in for. Or a 0% credit card interest rate may seem ideal - but we need to know for how long, and what happens after that.

The above is provided as information only. does not provide debt advice. You must always seek professional advice before taking any action to resolve your debts.