Why it is important to read the fine print


We live in an era where almost every product is sold using aggressive marketing techniques. Most products in the finance domain- credit cards, loans, bank account, real estate are advertised using eye catching colorful images and bold text. And using fine print has become a common method of advertising – all the positives and attractive features of the product on offer are highlighted in bold and the accompanying conditions, restrictive clauses and “not so attractive” features which could influence the prospective client to re-consider his buy decision are very carefully tucked away in small or fine print somewhere at the bottom part of the page or the last page.

While the intention of the advertisers or seller may not be to dupe the client, they are betting on the fact that the client would not bother to go through the terms and conditions carefully and hence would believe the product to be more beneficial and suitable than it really is, inducing the latter to buy or invest. Here are some ways in which the fine print could be misleading –

  •  Credit Cards and Loans –  If you are being offered a free credit card with no annual fee, most probably it is applicable only for the first year, or to make up for it, the late payment interest rate could be higher or the grace period for payment could be lesser. Same goes for loans with no processing fee or free balance transfer. There has to be a catch somewhere – and you will most probably find it in the “fine” print.
  • Service contracts like employment offer letter, pest control or bank account opening contracts. Once you sign on the dotted line, there isn’t much you can do later. Especially as most contracts are governed by “caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware” clause.
  • Online purchases and transactions – While buying or transacting online, we tend to simply check the “I agree” box which props up with the terms and conditions before the transaction without bothering to read through what could contains important information regarding exchange/refund policy or product insurance. In fact, there are quite a few of the not so popular e commerce sites which could be giving out your personal details to others, making you prone to hackers !
  • Real estate agreements – This is the most crucial, lengthy and difficult to understand agreement. The number of real estate frauds are on the rise- unclear property title, or the same land or house being sold to more than one person etc. It is important to get the papers  and clauses checked by a legal expert who will be able to understand and explain all the relevant parts of the contract to you.

So, before you get lured by catchy ads of “not to be missed” offers, do pay attention to the small * sign somewhere at the end of the text which says “conditions apply” and go through them.


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