Online Terms & Conditions
Every person who is a regular internet user would have done things like installing a new software, creating a new account on social networking sites, registering on some information websites and forums, creating account on file sharing websites or data sharing websites, doing online shopping, buying Mutual funds online, booking tickets online, subscribing to newsletters, etc. The common thing in most of these online tasks is the terms & conditions listed by every website. Almost every genuine website will have proper terms & conditions listed for the readers. We often get prompted to read these terms & conditions during a new account creation / registration at any website or related stuff. If you ask me about the easiest part of registering on any website, then, I would say it is pressing the "I accept" button or ticking the "Agree" check box below the listed Terms & Conditions of that site. This is because so far I have hardly read them carefully before joining any forums or websites. After filling the online forms we get tired and by the time we arrive at the last part (terms & conditions) of creating a new account, we blindly accept them to complete our registration process successfully. And I understand this is the most common mistake done by all of us (there will be a few smart exceptions).
Why is it useful to read terms & conditions of a website? Many of my friends have joined this website, so why should I read the terms & conditions? Such questions often arise in our minds which make us ignore the online terms & conditions of a website. Research has proven that less than 20% people go through the terms & conditions carefully. Now, this is a very small portion of the internet using population.
The terms and conditions have to be compulsorily listed by websites as a standard process. There are so many terms and conditions that you never know which of them might come back to hit you in future. Most of the terms & conditions are standard ones as per web compliance policies, but only a few of them may be tweaked by certain online merchants or companies. For example, some websites providing services to customers, even mention that they have the sole rights to alter the terms and conditions at any point of time without letting the customers know about it. Now, such a thing will impact users who might have availed of any specific offers under some schemes. For example, some online credit card companies launch new cards with attractive discounts on movie tickets, dining, etc. Most people blindly apply for such cards without checking the validity of such offers. If you carefully read the terms and conditions mentioned in the credit card website, you will know that many times such offers are temporary and don't get extended. So, a person who has availed the credit card service may not enjoy the discounts throughout the year for which he pays maintenance charges on the credit card usage. Also, many times there are restrictions on the credit card such that it can be used to avail discounts only once every month or only the first 1000 users will get the discount. Such things will be known to the customer only if he / she reads the terms & conditions regularly. Hence, one has to be really careful in checking out the online terms & conditions of any website offering services, software installations, etc. This is because once you agree to those terms & conditions, you are almost agreeing to anything the website or service provider asks for in future as long as you are tied up with the website for availing certain services. In this article, I have tried to list some things that one should check before clicking "I accept" option for terms & conditions and thereby avoid unnecessary problems.
Things to check while reading online terms & conditions
People prefer reading online blogs, articles and news. This has led to a common practise of subscribing to newsletters, registering as guest author or forum member for posting comments and reviews, etc. Such things may require you to share some personal information like name, email id, telephone number, etc. It is important to not reveal much information as it can be misused. Look out for terms & conditions of the blog site or forum site that you are joining and ensure there is a point mentioned about no sharing of user information with third parties. Else, you may end up receiving unwanted offers, daily updates, etc. on your email id. Some sites may even use your phone number to send promotional SMSes which will irritate you. Good knowledge of terms & conditions of all websites that you use will go a long way in avoiding such problems.
Most of us share personal information via emails as it is the most convenient and cost-effective communication mode for long distances. But, we need to be careful and avoid sharing credit card details or bank account details via not so popular email services. Some email service providers display targeted ads as per the interest of the email service user. So, a person who regularly does online shopping for groceries will find ads of some online grocery websites and a person who often books bus tickets online will find ads of different ticket booking sites around his emails. All these ads will appear only if you agree to the terms & conditions of that email service provider while creating a new email account. Targeted ads can sometimes be useful for us, but, it does put the information we share via emails under some security threat.
Often several travel websites and movie ticket websites come up with discount offers to lure customers. It is important to avail such offers only after reading the detailed terms & conditions that will be present on the particular website. Many offers are available only for limited customers on first-come-first-serve basis, while many offers are available for a limited period of time. Some discounts on ticket booking are applicable only for people using particular credit cards for payment. Many times it has been observed that travel tickets that are purchased through offer schemes are not refundable in case of any cancellations i.e. different cancellation and refund rules apply for such tickets. All such things are generally not advertised by the websites when they promote the offers. They simply use an asterix (*) above such discount ads that are flashed in newspapers or other online websites. It is important that customers read the hidden terms & conditions carefully before availing any seemingly attractive offer on ticket booking sites.
A large number of people have started using smartphones and tablets due to the wonderful apps that they provide. However, one should know that apps are created and made available for purchase by anyone and everyone. So, before downloading a new app, it is important to read the terms and conditions carefully as several apps ask you to allow them access to your personal information. This is generally done for making best use of targeted ads, but again share your personal information with a relatively new app only at your own risk. Mobile ads become active whenever you use the app and this may increase your monthly data usage as well as cost you few xtra bucks. While downloading any Android apps, you will generally see them asking you to allow access to user information. Try to allow access to famous apps only as you cannot completely rely on untested apps.
As many of us use social networking sites on a regular basis, it has become important to protect our Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, Google+ accounts, etc. Recently, it has been seen that many websites offer quick registration for new users by simply allowing them to connect through their Facebook account or Twitter account. Users are more than happy to skip the boring registration process and so easily get attracted to join websites via their social networking profiles. However, it is important to check the type of access such websites will have to your Facebook account or Twitter account. Some websites seek access to your social networking profiles and simply post / display their promotional ads on your behalf. So, before allowing a site to access your account, please check the permissions that you grant to them. Make sure you do not allow them the permission to post or tweet on your behalf. You can simply cancel such permission requests and move ahead.
By logic, the photos we own belong to us and we own all the intellectual property rights for them. So, while uploading any personal photographs on any photo printing website or photo sharing website, please check their terms & conditions to ensure they cannot misuse your photo on your behalf.
There are certain websites which claim rights to your photos once you upload them. Hence, make sure you do not upload any personal photographs on such websites having tricky terms & conditions. It is better to be safe initially, then, worry later.
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