NMA Opposes ‘Rigid And Arbitrary’ Requirements for T&Cs

The News Media Association has said that it would not be in favour of imposing rigid and arbitrary requirements on how terms and conditions of contracts are conveyed to consumers, such as insisting on key points must be summarised separately and must not exceed a specified length.  

It has also opposed harsh fines for any breach of any such new requirements. The NMA has stressed in its response to the BIS consultation that news media companies need to have the flexibility to decide what works for them and their users, who span from readers, advertisers to contributors.

Companies with expanding overseas audiences may also need to incorporate into their terms and conditions additional points relevant to readers in Australia and/or the US.  It may well not be possible to condense all the relevant information for these different users into two smart-phone screens, as the Government  consultation suggests, without jettisoning important points that users need to know. The result will only be a reduction in consumer protection and awareness, the NMA said.

The NMA said in its submission that it “places a strong emphasis on consumer protection because trust is central to the relationship between a newspaper and its readers.”  

The NMA warned that if fines were introduced, robust safeguards would be needed to ensure that they are properly and narrowly targeted at the worst offenders. These would include high standard of proof, defences and rights to appeal.

The NMA added that a system that did not use fines is far less likely to have its decisions legally challenged and would therefore be more agile and better able to respond to fast-changing markets.