Fine Print

(P1) The FINE PRINT in many insurance and banking agreements is only understandable to post-graduate students, a consumer group has said.

(P2) Fairer Finance also found that even many “simpler” documents were written in language only accessible to those educated to university level.

(P3) It compared terms and conditions in 280 documents to a range of reading score formulas.

(P4) An estimated 16% of UK adults have a reading age of 11 or less.

(P5) The research found that no insurance documents could be understood by someone with an education level EQUIVALENT to an 11-year-old in the first year of middle school.

(P6) “By communicating in a language that many people simply can’t understand, banks and insurers are DISCRIMINATING against large numbers of their customers,” said James Daley, managing director of Fairer Finance.

(P7) “As well as being unfair, it is also bad business. If customers do not understand what they are buying, they are more likely to be disappointed. It is in everyone’s interests that companies communicate clearly with their customers.”

(P8) A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “All insurers want to ensure that customer documents are as clear and TRANSPARENT as possible.

(P9) “They will continually review their customer materials, as they want policy-holders to read policies and understand what they are covered for and what they need to be aware of. We would also encourage consumers to read what they receive from their insurers, and speak to them if anything is unclear.”

(P10) A report published last year by the Money Advice Service suggested that four out of five UK adults did not read the full terms and conditions when they bought financial products.

(P11) The research suggested that misunderstanding financial JARGON cost UK consumers £21bn in a year – an average of £428 for every adult.

WORDS: 301



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you review the “fine print” in documents that you sign, including online USER AGREEMENTS, or do you just skip them?
  3. Although Mr. Daley of Fairer Finance says that “It is in everyone’s interests that companies communicate clearly with their customers,” that is probably not true. Fine print has traditionally been “fine” (small) to discourage customers from reading it. Is there any advantage for companies when the customer does not know what she is agreeing to?
  4. Are you surprised to learn that 16% of the British population reads at an 11-year-old level or worse? Do you think that figure would be similar for your country, or better?
  5. Do studies and reports like this actually change anything?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Fine print
  • User agreement

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