At the recent IACCM conference in London there were a number of presentations and discussions on the topic of contract visualisation and the use of plain language in contracts and agreements. It was a topic that seemed to spark people’s imagination and resonate with many whether it was the use of simpler language, the ordering of the clauses, the layout and style of the documents or the use of diagrammatic representations of complex clauses.
What it came down to was bringing a user centric design approach to documents, not something that is usually in the people negotiating’s minds when they are in the heat of negotiating the warranties or liability clauses in their minutia. The traditional logic perhaps is that the detail is more important that the aesthetics.
The above headline related to UK case this week where a judge ruled that a spread betting company could not legitimately claim losses from a customer after the losses were racked up by his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son when he left his computer unattended and the boy used it to play ‘games’ on. The judge said that it would have been ‘close to a miracle’ if the customer had read the relevant clause in the 49 pages of T&Cs and therefore such lengthy T&Cs were ‘entirely inadequate to seek to make the customer liable for any potential trades he did not authorise’ .
Whilst contract visualisation alone may not have helped in this case, it shows a potential trend starting with regards to B2C T&Cs and which companies will increasingly have to consider.