A new bipartisan bill would take on terms of service agreements that are overly complex and leave users with very little choice.
Introduced by Congresswoman Lori Trahan, Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., and Senator Ben Ray Luján, the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act takes aim at a common issue in the industry. Terms of service agreements are usually so long and complex that very few users take the time to read and understand them.
In fact, the lawmakers cite a study that found it would take 76 work days for the average American to read all the service agreements for the various tech companies whose products and services they use. Failure to agree, however, prevents the user from being able to use said service.
The TLDR Act hopes to address this, by making such agreements simpler and more transparent.
“For far too long, blanket terms of service agreements have forced consumers to either ‘agree’ to all of a company’s conditions or lose access to a website or app entirely. No negotiation, no alternative, and no real choice,” said Congresswoman Trahan, a member of the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. “To further slant the decision in their favor, many companies design unnecessarily long and complicated contracts, knowing that users don’t have the bandwidth to read lengthy legal documents when they’re simply trying to message a loved one or make a quick purchase. The potential for abuse is obvious, and some bad actors have chosen to exploit these agreements to expand their control over users’ personal data and shield themselves from liability. This is a problem that transcends political parties, and it demands solutions like the TLDR Act that do the same by requiring transparency and returning power to consumers.”
“Users should not have to comb through pages of legal jargon in a website’s terms of services to know how their data will be used,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Requiring companies to provide an easy-to-understand summary of their terms should be mandatory and is long overdue.”
“Consumers deserve the ability to make informed decisions online for themselves and their families,” said Senator Luján, Chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband. “Rather than inform, too many companies use long and complicated Terms of Service agreements to bury critical details about their data policies and shield themselves from legal liability. The TLDR Act will empower consumers to take their business elsewhere when that happens. Informing consumers is a bipartisan issue, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to provide real choice online.”