We have all got used to Mobile Contracts. There may be pages of script so small that an arc lamp and industrial strength glasses will not be enough to allow the thing to be read. On line where you can make the font any size you want, we still skip past the text to the “Accept” button. Some of the sites don’t even have the pretence you have read to the bottom and cheerfully offer the button right up at the top, highlighted and ready to go.
How can it be that we all become so blasé about committing to very serious legal requirements with what are very large and powerful corporate entities? The clue comes in part to that very disparity of the size of a consumer versus the multinational corporate. The negotiation is inherently unfair, the company has the money, the lawyers, has spent months, if not years drafting the document that is put in front of you to sign with minutes or seconds to take in and commit to.
We can sign that contract because, in broad terms, there is an assumption that the corporation will have a duty to be ‘reasonable’ in its dealings with its customers. It is not reasonable to ask for your first born or, more likely, to ask for £52,000 worth of overage. The consumer is unlikely to understand the full or potential impact of their actions, even if it is outlined in Paragraph 18.104.22.168 of the contract that they have signed. Such clauses then become unenforceable and may even jeopardise the validity of the whole contract.
The situation is very different in a company to company environment. Here Ofcom, who are aggressive in defending consumer rights appear to have an attitude that a company should be big and ugly enough to understand the commitments a company has made in a contract. It is vital then then that an airtime contract is read and understood before signing. What are the real costs at the end of the contract? How can that contract end? How are disputes settled? What is the role of the networks in an M2M environment?
So when presented with a Company to Company contract for airtime it is vital that we apply more caution than the usual cursory glance. It may well contain unpalatable things, and it may be that these items are there for good reasons. But if it does include a clause that you have to hand over your recipe for ratatouille beware! It is unlikely that Ofcom will be interested if later you decide that is unreasonable.