Thursday, February 26, 2009

'Facebook Uproar Will Transform Online and Offline Contracts,' Says Alan Siegel, Pioneer of the Plain English Movement and Chairman of Siegel+Gale

/PRNewswire/ -- "The uproar among Facebook users, fanned by management's decision to change the terms of their service agreement earlier this month, will lead to a transformation of turgid, impenetrable online contracts into readable documents," says Alan Siegel, one of the founders of the Plain English and Simplification movements and Chairman of brand consultancy Siegel+Gale. Co-author of WRITING CONTRACTS IN PLAIN ENGLISH (West Group), Mr. Siegel taught the first law school course in plain-language writing and has simplified complex legal documents for banks, businesses, and the federal government -- including the IRS.

"While hardly anyone outside the legal community doesn't yearn for simplicity, clarity, and functionality in contracts, consumers have continued to blindly agree to whatever is placed before them. They feel there is nothing they can do to force companies to transform loan agreements, insurance policies, mortgages, warranties, etc., into Plain English.

"At a time when there is a call for transparency and honesty in all sectors of society and business -- online and offline -- clearly Facebook showed an initial lack of sensitivity to the interests of their 175 million users when they changed the terms of the privacy provisions in their terms and conditions contract.

"While they put a note on the company blog that said the company 'simplified and clarified a lot of information that applies to you,' users were not asked to agree to the new terms or even alerted by e-mail about this rather significant change. Facebook merely added this line to their terms: 'Your continued use of the Facebook Service after any such changes constitutes your acceptance of the new Terms.'

"This generated such a strong negative reaction from Facebook users that Facebook announced they were reinstituting the terms of the original agreement.

"This about-face clearly demonstrates the power of the Internet that will force companies to communicate with clarity in their contracts with their customers. Companies will no longer be able to hide behind impenetrable contracts that provide unfair protections or conditions. It looks like the Internet and its legion of bloggers will be the stimulus for an upheaval in legal communications that is long overdue.

"This Facebook uproar will transform online -- and offline -- contracts. The days of consumers blindly signing whatever is placed before them are clearly over," Mr. Siegel concludes.

Fayette Front Page
Georgia Front Page

No comments: