It's time to fix your terms and conditions

Does anyone actually read the terms and conditions for a product or service? I must admit that I usually do. Part of it comes from wanting to understand what I'm getting myself into. Another part of it comes from a small paranoia that the company has buried a clause in the agreement stating that they will sell my information to identify thieves.  

Unfortunately, terms and conditions are getting longer and harder to understand. Some of these documents are even unfriendly. I recently enrolled in American Express's OPEN program and was struck by the provision that clearly stated that if I had any feedback about their service I should keep it to myself.

I have a few suggestions for anyone who is writing these documents.  Please leave your comments with your suggestions too!

  1. Use lawyers sparingly. It's OK to have a lawyer advise you on your terms and conditions, just don't let the lawyer write them. The term "forthwith" should never stand between me and conveniently sharing photos online with friends.
  2. Confine them to one page or less. A terms and conditions document should never be confused with War and Peace. One thing that's great about parking services is they can fit their terms and conditions on the back of a ticket. Try that with yours.
  3. Make it sound as friendly as your marketing copy. It's ironic to read the warm, friendly tones of a company's marketing materials and then read their terse, unfriendly terms and conditions.

What other suggestions do you have?