I just received an email from NSW Roads & Maritime Servies E-Toll informing me that the terms and conditions of my E-Toll account and tag have been updated. The T&Cs document is 14 pages and there is no indication of what has been changed. Since I don’t have a local copy of the T&Cs document (who does these days when they can be readily accessed online), I have no way of knowing what has been changed. I think this is poor customer service in the digital age and there should be a summary provided of what changes have been made to the T&Cs document so it’s only necessary to review the relevant sections of the T&Cs document. I have plenty of examples where companies update their T&Cs and provide a summary of the changes, so it’s not “too hard”.
I also have the same beef when I receive updated T&Cs. Some companies will provide a high level summary of what the changes are (find these are usually multinational or very large Australian companies), but most don’t provide any information in relation to what the changes are and how they may affect the consumer.
The change could be as small as adding a full stop or changing the date to indicate that a review has occurred, to significant changes which could affect ones decisions in relation to the use of the service subject of the T&Cs.
One would expect that in today’s day and age, it would be very easy to produce two copies of the updated T&Cs, the final updated version and one showing tracked changes (or alternatively a summary of the changes). This would reduce confusion and also workload on the consumer having to read all the T&Cs again to make sure one is happy/agrees/ accepts them.
Also, one should expect the government to set the standard and ensure user friendliness, and not be a recalcitrant organisation.
You can’t give informed consent to the changes when the changes are buried in some ridiculously long document.
It’s obvious that companies won’t all do the right thing in this regard unless they are legally obliged to do so.
This does however lead to a related problem i.e. the ridiculously long document itself. In selected industries (banking, telco) companies may be obliged to produce a pro forma summary of the Terms and Conditions in plain English. In general though you are on your own.
The other practice that is questionable for tolls and similar services is when a major consumer change does occur.
Eg Change in charges for credit card payment, Changes to how you can pay, Changes to minimum balance requirements.
These changes are clearly announced. They are typically accompanied with an updated T&Cs doc. How many of us assume that the updated T&Cs cover only the listed item/s?
It would be nice if the ACCC made a requirement that all changes to T&Cs are to include a complete list of what actually changed since the previous version. Expecting a complete re-read is just not practical for consumers.
In the programming world, we call this a “diff”, essentially a side-by-side comparison of the parts that changed.
I found a summary of the changes:
Not sure when it was added, but it would have been easiest if the link was included in the email notifying the changes.