If I were to ask, “Would you rather be punched in the face or stabbed in the back?” I’m guessing that you would be hard pressed to answer because I’m seeking consent for something without providing a meaningful choice.
Another interesting case in the UK involves Spreadex, a company that, as its name suggests, takes bets on the movements in prices of various commodities including gold, silver and crude oil. A Mr. Cochrane visited the site in October 2010, filled out the customer account information and was directed to the site’s “Customer Agreement.” He agreed to the terms and hit the “submit” button. He began trading a few weeks later, and explained what he was doing to his girlfriend’s son. He left his computer screen open and, you guessed it, the boy thought he was playing a game for fun and made a series of online bets setting Mr. Cochrane’s account back more than 50,000 pounds.
Spreadex wanted to cover those bets and requested that a court rule in Spreadex’s favor taking the position that Cochrane had no arguable defense because he agreed to be bound to the terms of the Customer Agreement. When the judge reviewed the document, he was faced with 49 pages of small print and complex legal terms and stated it was impossible to read, let alone understand the implications of the agreement.
Companies work hard to protect their brands yet often fail to understand how their bloated and over-reaching privacy policies can alienate the customers who make their brands relevant.