Scottish Law Commission to tackle 'unfair' contract small print

Consumers need to be protected from unfair terms and conditions hidden in the small print of contracts, according to the Scottish Law Commission.

The body has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the law.

It wants to make contracts simpler and clearer.

The commission said competition for customers, fuelled by developments such as price comparison websites, meant some traders were burying the true cost of a contract in the small print.

The consultation is being carried out jointly by the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Commission, which covers England and Wales.

Both bodies made recommendations for reform in 2005, which were accepted in principle but were never implemented.

Each year consumers sign up to a variety of contracts for things such as mobile phones, gym memberships and household utilities.

The commission wants to reduce the liability for unexpected charges.

Honest traders

It also wants important information like total price and details of the services being offered to be clearly visible on any contract, and presented in a way most consumers would understand.

Scottish Law Commissioner, Prof Hector MacQueen, said: "We are proposing a new approach to unfair terms which would assist consumers and traders alike.

"First, it would protect consumers from being caught out by unpleasant surprises such as unexpected charges.

"Secondly, by requiring terms relating to price or the main subject matter to be in plain, intelligible language, legible and readily available to the consumer, and presented in such a way that the average consumer would be aware of them, it would help to prevent honest traders from losing out to their more unscrupulous counterparts."

The commission wants to hear the views of consumers and traders. The consultation runs till 25 October.

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