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1hr 37mins to read bank account small print

No wonder we don't both to read our bank's terms and conditions when it takes this long.


by Michelle McGagh on Nov 21, 2012 at 00:01

1hr 37mins to read bank account small print

Ever read all of that bumpf the bank sends you when you open up a savings account of ISA? No, me neither but if you did it could take you over an hour to read it all.

I’m sure most of us could think of better ways to spend our time than reading banks’ terms and conditions which is why most of us never bother and don’t know about those sneaky charges and falling interest rates that are hidden in the small print.

The length of banks’ T&Cs (source: Which?):

Bank Number of words Time to read
HSBC 29,006 1hr 37 mins
First Direct 25,904 1hr 26 mins
Halifax 20,082 1hr 07 mins
Lloyds TSB 16,293 54 mins
Barclays 15,086 50 mins
Santander 13,651 46 mins
Cooperative Bank 12,593 42 mins
Smile 11,295 38 mins
Natwest/RBS 11,165 37 mins
Nationwide 7,557 25 mins

Time to read is the time it would take an average person to read them from start to finish based on a typical reading speed of 300 WPM 

New research by consumer group Which? shows just how baffled we are by banks’ conditions. It asked consumers to read the T&Cs of eight major banks’ standard current accounts and then asked questions about them.

Although the testers were given unlimited time to answer they could not answer all the questions correctly for any of the banks. The testers answered 53% of questions correctly for questions on Lloyds’ terms and 67% for Natwest. And it took a staggering 17 minutes for one person to find the answer for a question on First Direct’s savings account.  

Only one in 10 Which? members surveyed said they had read their bank’s T&Cs thoroughly when they opened their current account and it’s no surprise people can’t be bothered to read them when it takes up to an hour and 37 minutes to do so.

Banks’ terms and conditions test (source: Which?):

Bank Questions answered correctly
Natwest 67%
Barclays 65%
HSBC 62%
Santander 60%
Nationwide 57%
First Direct 55%
Halifax 55%
Lloyds TSB 53%

15 comments so far. Why not have your say?

an elder one

Nov 21, 2012 at 10:35

One suspects t&c.s are'nt meant to be read and they're simply there to cover providers' backsides; though why these people can't put a basic, readable, synopsis in place beats me, since the whole lot of verbiage could only be properly judged by a lawyer and it has to be ticked off anyway in order to proceed on essentials.

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Steve Hayes

Nov 21, 2012 at 17:14

I often wonder if an online tick to say "read and agreed to" could be disputed on the grounds that you cannot have read it in the time, so they know you haven't actually read it. Even more so as on one occasion when I was doing so the site threw me out and I had to start again because it had timed me out.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Nov 21, 2012 at 17:25

And how many of those include terms that:

1) Allow them to change the terms

2) State that communication to you of such things as the changes in terms shall be considered delivered.received to/by you not later than 4 days after they are 'sent' by 1st class post.

BUT where have you seen any indication that there is a guarantee that 1st class mail will be delivered to the designated recipient within 4 days, or even within 4 years?

You will ensure you are NOT be away from your designated residence for more than 24 hours, won't you?

You will maintain a cellphone (powered up, and within range of a working recieving/transmitting station) and kept on your person so they can contact you via a call, or a message, and you will be maintaining facebook and other social media accounts and be checking them regularly, at least once a day so they can contact you, wont you?


And while I am considering contracts - Where do I take my banknotes to, as the bearer obtain the promised 'pounds', and in what form will I receive those 'pounds' -

Shouldn't it be in gold as I understand the UK is on the 'Gold standard'?


Or in other words - get real -

Fancy expecting 'contracts' created by/for the perveyor to be there for the customer/client.

So have we all had a good laugh?

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Martin via mobile

Nov 21, 2012 at 17:54

I think any consumer contract which takes the average person longer than 15 mins to read should be declared invalid since nobody will have actually read it.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Nov 21, 2012 at 18:05

No - just the bits the 'customer' doesn't like at whatever time someone wants to 'enforce' the contract.

That would make the creators of contracts very careful.

Then again pension funds would suffer because of the lack of dividend from, and capital value in bank shares.

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Anonymous 2 needed this 'off the record'

Nov 21, 2012 at 18:49

My wife has just closed an account with Norwich & Peterborough Building Society 'cos they wanted to charge her £5/month as a 'low transaction charge' for less than 5 transactions in a month. My wife had over £4,000 in that account on zero interest. The account details run to 24 pages of small print.

I asked them to explain how it cost them more if my wife made fewer transactions - they just pointed me to para 7.3 of the account terms and conditions.

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Nov 21, 2012 at 19:04

Wasn't that nce of them to remind you that you could get (£4000 x 2% after tax?) - perhaps £80 by moving your money to a competitor.

Nationwide offer online flexaccount + an online instant access saver at - I believe about 2.3%.

And there is Lloyds TSB Advantage account

Lots of options - just avoid accounts you have to pay for

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Nov 21, 2012 at 19:21

Small print menace,where on your bank statement does it show charges of purchases abroad,it doesn't,why because it is added into the exchange rate so it appears nothing is been deducted,Yes it states that they charge you 2.95% but you try and find,one bank clerk told me a few years ago that there weren't any charges,and now I have found them,beware of Greeks bearing gifts

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Nov 21, 2012 at 19:54

I haven't read terms and conditions for a while, but if seriously challenged I suspect that many provisions would not survive the Unfair Terms in Contract Regulations 1999.

For a different provider, many of the TalkTalk provisions would fail that test, one of them being that if you upset anyone by using their facility to communicate, they can cut you off without notice and charge you an early termination charge.

There you go TalkTalk, cut me off, I am still going to sue you for the illegal charge of BT engineer to correct the connecton/service fault outside the premises and damages.

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Anthony Tinslay

Nov 21, 2012 at 21:20

It is just 'the way of the world' - or put another way - Heads they win, tails you lose. The reality is that a Bank's T & C have been built up over the years as a result of a vast number of claims, misunderstandings, defaults, greed, errors by both sides and the constant call for transparency. Many years ago a new customer applicant merely gave a specimen signature under a simple mandate form which set out just a handful of clear, concise conditions. We, the public cannot have it both ways - i.e. have a problem and then claim that we were not told. As pointed out, it is not just the banks - look at any agreement on line or in store. In the latter case I always read the small print in full, after asking for a magnifying glass, and have an inner smile whilst the shop assistant sits in front totally bored but not daring to say a word.

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Steve Hayes

Nov 21, 2012 at 23:13

@Anthony Tinslay and the way of the world

But no, about 40 years ago a judge booted a car company's T&Cs out (they said something like once you've driven the car out of the dealer showroom you're stuck with that car). Somebody had bought a "Friday job" which had loads of faults, and the judge said to the car company that despite their T&Cs he was going to twist the law or find some reason to say that they weren't going to be allowed to cheat their customer in this way.

Now we have the Sale of Goods Act and the Unfair Contract terms Act, which both say that T&Cs which say in effect "we can cheat you" are VOID. Trouble is it doesn't seem to apply to banks/lawyers/priests etc.

(I think the Acts might have been superseded, somebody can correct me by all means)

So no, T&Cs should not take precedence over fairness, and not cheating, and delivering what was advertised, even more so when theyare impossible to read and understand in any reasonable time, and even more especially so when they sit between a private citizen and a large institution, and even more so when the private citizen might easily be not very educated, maybe has English as a second language and might ordinarily not get involved in anything so wordy in thier day to day life, but still everyone has to have a bank account and pension arrangements. Martin Lewis recently wrote a nice piece about the right to be not very bright without becoming fair game.

PS There is a true tale about some outfit which inserted a clause which claimed your immortal soul into their T&Cs, and nobody noticed.

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bob mcewan

Nov 22, 2012 at 11:22

I was told a long time ago "that the big print gives you some thing but the small print takes it away" it looks like nothing changes .

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smoking gun

Nov 22, 2012 at 22:54

Snoekle claims to have been illegally charged for service connection charge outside building. Why did he pay in the first place? BT responsibilities are not limited to repairs outside property but are fully responsible for the service up to the little white box to which your phone/broaband line is connected.

Beware though as the little white box is owned by BT so don't go messing with it or any BT equipment inside or outside for that matter.

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Brian T

Nov 23, 2012 at 20:27

It may take 1 hour 37 minutes to read but how long will it take to fully understand these T & C's?

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Anonymous 1 needed this 'off the record'

Nov 23, 2012 at 20:50

What as in

Is it not untrue that you stated you will not deny refuting the suggestion that you should be admitting that you do not deny attempting to, nby obfusification confuse and confound those wheo can be assumed to not be sumewhat less unintelligent than those not in the median quartile of the normal distribotion of the borrowing and working population who have not been required to have a banking account.

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