In context: How many service agreements, EULAs and privacy statements do you read? All? Nothing? Statistically speaking, you’re most likely to accept the many contracts you’re exposed to online without reading a single word of them. Although TS readers are more likely to be in the 10th percentile, 91% of average consumers do not read service contracts online.
Trahan says the proposed law will make it easier for consumers to assess the terms of legally binding agreements for the websites and services they use. A 2017 survey show that 91% of consumers accept service contracts without reading them because they are too long and filled with legalese. Indeed, another 2008 study revealed that it would take an average of 76 business days to read all the TOS and other legal documents they agree to when doing business online.
“Users shouldn’t have to wade through pages of legalese in a website’s terms of service to find out how their data will be used,” said Senator Cassidy. “Requiring companies to provide an easy-to-understand summary of their terms should be mandatory and is long overdue.”
Summary statements will provide consumers with transparency regarding data collection, including the types of data collected and how it is used or shared. It also provides information on whether users can delete their personal information and how to do so. Another critical detail the summary should provide is whether the contract obligates the user to waive their legal rights to its content or legal remedies like arbitration or class action lawsuits.
“Consumers deserve to be able to make informed decisions online for themselves and their families,” said Senator Luján. “Rather than informing, too many companies are using long and complicated terms of service agreements to bury critical details about their data policies and shield themselves from legal liability.”
The law will also require that the summary statement and ToS be machine-readable and use markup languages like XML so that researchers and other third parties can easily parse them for accountability. The Federal Trade Commission will be the primary enforcement agency. However, state attorneys general can sue companies in the United States District Court if they find that a company has violated the law in their state.
“Some malicious actors have chosen to exploit these agreements to extend their control over users’ personal data and protect themselves from liability,” Rep. Trahan said. “This is a problem that transcends political parties, and it demands solutions like the TLDR Act that do the same by demanding transparency and empowering consumers.”
Lawmakers did not have a timeline for introducing the bill to the House and Senate, but as laws evolve, it could be some time before the TLDR law can pass.
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