funnt terms and conditions stunt

Have you ever accepted a website’s terms and conditions without actually reading them?

Of course you have.

After all, if you’d read every single word in the most common T&Cs, you would have spent around 12 hours of your life so far dedicated to the fine print (see table below for a detailed breakdown). For many of us, this isn’t something that particularly excites us, but it can be more important than you think.

What if you had inadvertently waived the right to name your first born child? Or agreed to be on Santa’s naughty list for the rest of your life? Or even committed to eating no pizza at all for the next year? Well, as it turns out, a lot of you actually did.

Recently, we put out our free ebook that anyone could download, provided they accepted the terms and conditions that went along with it. Unfortunately for those wanting the ebook, the T&Cs included these not-so reasonable requirements:

‘By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to be on the naughty list for the rest of your life. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to be put on Santa’s naughty list. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe in Christmas, b) are already on the naughty list, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.

By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to let us name your firstborn child. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender control over choosing the name, and any claim you may have on it. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you want a child, b) have had your firstborn child already or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.

By downloading an ebook via this website, you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to not eat pizza for the next 12 months. Should we wish to exercise this option, you agree to refuse any type of pizza for the next 12 months. We reserve the right to serve such notice, however, we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) can’t be without pizza b) have already planned to eat pizza, or c) do not wish to grant us such a license, please send an email to the address below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your download.’

Thanks to our experiment, we now have complete control over the naughty list status, child-naming rights and pizza consumption habits of 270 people across the world. What a haul.

Don’t worry, we won’t actually enforce these terms, you can still eat as much pizza as you want.

Who accepted our funny T&Cs?

So who exactly gave up more than they bargained for when signing up for our ebook? We published the website in five different domains (Germany, Spain, France and the EN domain, encompassing the UK and US) and left them from the 26th October to the 30th November to collect our data.

In total, 271 users across the countries accepted our terms and conditions with only one person emailing us using the ‘opt out’ option to nullify the ridiculous clauses included. This means that either 270 people didn’t read the T&Cs at all, or those 270 people felt like what we were asking of them was perfectly reasonable. We’d put our money on the first option.

Germany was the most sceptical country, with only 41 users accepting the terms of service. Spain wasn’t far behind, with 46 unsuspecting naughty-listers. The one person to email opting out of the clauses came from the Spanish domain, so we know for certain that at least one individual read our T&Cs here.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were 87 users in France who have waived their rights to eat pizza, and 97 in the EN domain whose firstborns we can now legally name. We’re thinking first name Website, and middle name Tooltester. It has a certain ring to it.

What are you really agreeing to on the most popular services?

popular services

So, now we know for sure how many people skim over the T&Cs. But to avoid any accidental soul-selling in the future, how long would it actually take you to read through the biggest websites’ fine print?

The longest T&Cs to read on the most popular websites

Website Contract Type No. words Time in min
(at 240 words/min)
Snapchat Social Networking 20,011 83.38
Microsoft Business 15,260 63.58
Grindr Social 14,570 60.71
Clubhouse Social Networking 8,515 35.48
Apple Technology company 8,000 33.33
Playstation Gaming 7,832 32.63
NOWTV Streaming 7,811 32.55
TikTok Social Networking 7,367 30.70
Slack Business 7,367 30.70
Reddit Social Networking 7,163 29.85
LinkedIn Social Networking 6,770 28.21
Amazon Shopping 6,483 27.01
Spotify Music Streaming 6,320 26.33
Twitter Social Networking/ News 5,773 24.05
Tinder Social 5,501 22.92
Whatsapp Social Networking 5,119 21.33
Zoom Business 4,714 19.64
Facebook Social Networking 4,100 17.08
Google Business 3,436 14.32
Youtube Video Players & Editors 3,353 13.97
Instagram Social Networking 3,199 13.33
Pinterest Lifestyle 2,511 10.46
Netflix Streaming 2,182 9.09
Amazon Prime Streaming 1,809 7.54
Xbox Live Gaming 1,645 6.85

Snapchat T&Cs have you waive your moral rights

Snapchat takes the cake with their 20,011 word terms and conditions document. Considering the average reading time of 240 words a minute, these would take you a total of 83 minutes to read – that’s around one hour and 20 minutes. Obviously, that’s a lot of time to spend going through the legal stuff, but isn’t it worth it to know exactly what you’re signing up for?

According to Terms of Service; Didn’t Read, a site that aims to make you aware of everything you’re signing up for in accepting certain services’ terms and conditions, you’re accepting the following when you press ‘I agree’ on Snapchat:

  • Waiving your moral rights
  • The service holding onto content you’ve deleted
  • Allowing the app to have broad device permissions
  • The service collecting, using and sharing location data
  • Tracking via third-party cookies for purposes including advertising

Maybe those 20,011 words were worth reading, after all.

Microsoft’s T&Cs would take you an hour to read

microsoft

Microsoft also has some extremely lengthy T&Cs. They consist of 15,260 words, which would take you around 63 minutes to make your way through. Less time than Snapchat, but the majority of us would still choose to skim over them rather than spend an hour reading in detail.

However, when you do this, you’re actually agreeing to the following terms:

  • The service can delete any content they want without reason and without prior notice
  • The service can collect, use and share location data
  • The service can delete your account without a reason and without prior notice
  • Terms may be changed at any time at their discretion, without notice to the user
  • Third-party cookies are used for advertising

So, if you don’t want to risk your account being deleted out of the blue, you might want to read the T&Cs next time you sign up for something new.

TikTok can read your private messages

TikTok

TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps this year, with around one billion active users posting content all over the world. When it comes to their T&Cs, it would take you around half an hour to get through all 7,367 words – and if you consider how long you’ll spend on the app in one sitting, this doesn’t seem like a whole load of time.

However, if you choose to spend this time scrolling through the content rather than informing yourself of the terms of service, you’ll have agreed to the following conditions:

  • Private messages can be read
  • The service can delete content without prior notice and without a reason
  • The service can collect, use and share location data
  • The service shares your personal data with third parties that aren’t involved in its operation
  • Many different types of personal data are collected

TikTok terms of service may have you agree to more than you would want. So, while the short-form videos may capture people’s attention all over the world, it seems that more attention should be paid to this long form.

Top tips for reading T&Cs

We get it, it isn’t the most fun activity in the world to sit down and read terms and conditions in detail. But don’t worry – there are ways to help speed up the process, so that you don’t unwittingly sign up to anything you don’t want to, and also don’t spend hours of your precious time reading them.

First of all, have a look at Terms of Service; Didn’t Read to see a quick summary of the conditions you’re agreeing to as well as a privacy rating, so you can easily see how intrusive they are. There’s information on a huge number of websites and services on there, so you should be able to find the one in question.

If it’s not listed, then you’ll have to spend a bit more time on the document, unfortunately. However, to cut down on the reading time, there’s one useful way to bypass the filler words and get straight to the good stuff.

When in the document, use the search function (command + F on Apple computers, and CTRL + F on other makes), search for keywords that will lead you to relevant sections and clauses, such as ‘third parties’, ‘advertising partners’, ‘affiliates’, ‘personal data’ and ‘opt out’. If anything else is particularly important to you, just search for the associated words to quickly find the information you need.

T&Cs for website builders

Believe it or not, there are even terms and conditions on websites used to make other websites. But what are you really signing up for when you click that ‘I agree’ button?

The longest website builder T&Cs to read

Website No. words Time in min
(at 240 words/min)
GoDaddy 13,419 55.91
Weebly 11,530 48.04
Wix 9,831 40.96
Squarespace 7,533 31.39

Weebly’s T&Cs would take you 48 minutes to read

If you choose to create your website with Weebly, we’d assume you enjoy convenience and speed. Unfortunately, when reading the terms of service for this builder, it would take you just under an hour to get through it all.

However, the site doesn’t ask too much of you in them, so even if you did skim read them, chances are you wouldn’t be caught out like our ebook downloaders were. Accepting Weebly’s T&Cs means you accept the following:

  • The service does not force users into binding arbitration
  • The service is only available to users over a certain age
  • You are responsible for maintaining the security of your account and for the activities on your account

Wix’s T&Cs take 40 minutes to get through

Wix is an extremely popular website builder and fortunately, their T&Cs, at least partly, follow the ‘fast and easy’ process they promise. It would take you around 40 minutes to read the terms of service before you can start building your website. Thankfully, Wix highlights the main parts of their T&C in short using simple language:

wix terms

Wix’s Terms of Use

This is what you’re agreeing to:

  • The service is not responsible for linked or (clearly) quoted content from third-party content providers
  • The service is provided ‘as is’ and to be used at the users’ sole risk
  • This service does not guarantee that it or the products obtained through it meet your expectations or requirements
  • You allow the service to use your website for their promotional activities, and to determine the manner in which the services will be performed

GoDaddy’s T&Cs will take up to an hour of your time

On GoDaddy, not only can you build a website, but you can get a domain name, pay for online marketing services and host your site on their server. That’s a lot of things to offer, so it’s no surprise that the T&Cs on the site take 56 minutes to read.

If you don’t have this amount of time going spare at the moment, here’s a few of the things you’d be agreeing to if you accepted the terms:

  • Prices and fees may be changed at any time, without notice to you
  • This service shares your personal data with third parties that are not involved in its operation
  • Some personal data may be kept after the end of the data retention period or a request for erasure
  • Third-party cookies are used for advertising

When using ToolTester to find a website builder, we obviously won’t enforce any of the above terms. If you feel like practising your terms of service reading right now, have a look at our T&Cs so you can see exactly what you’re signing up for when you press ‘I agree’. We promise we won’t actually take any ownership of your soul.

Methodology

ToolTester inserted ‘sneaky’ terms and conditions onto their free ebook for over a month to see how many users would download it without checking. ToolTester hasn’t held anyone to these terms. We analysed the terms and conditions for over 30 of the most popular apps, from social media to entertainment, to see which take the longest to read (taking into account the word count and the average number of words per minute a person can read). Using Terms of Service; Didn’t Read, we also looked at the terms these apps put in their T&C’s that might cause people concern over their privacy.

 

About Robert Brandl, BA (Hons) Munich University MUAS

robert brandl

Hi, my name is Robert Brandl, and I am the founder of Tooltester. I used to work in a digital marketing agency where I managed website and email marketing projects. To optimize my client's campaigns, I always had to find the optimal web tools. Tooltester (founded in 2010) opens this knowledge to you, hopefully saving you endless hours of research. If you have any questions, please leave a comment. You can also find me on LinkedIn.

Your comments

Back to top