The first book-length work you may read on your Amazon Kindle is its terms and conditions.
An Australian consumer advocacy group has found that the e-reader’s terms and conditions are 73,198 words long, which would take the average person nine hours to read in full.
Consumer advocates Choice hired an actor to read aloud the entire agreement in nine hour-long installments posted on YouTube – from episode one, “No hope”, to the series finale, “Darkest before the dawn”.
The group is using the example of Kindle to call on the federal government to legislate to stop companies from forcing people to agree to contracts that they cannot reasonably be expected to have read.
Guardian Australia has contacted Amazon and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for comment.
Tom Godfrey, Choice’s head of media, said many terms and conditions agreements, not just Amazon Kindle’s, were “completely unreasonable” in their length and complexity. Kobo, another e-reader brand, had 9,844 words in its terms and conditions.
“They’re everywhere; it’s ubiquitous,” he said. “Pretty much any producer or digital service that you sign up to, you are agreeing to this very weighty, quite complex legalese that you have very little chance of understanding.
“We would like to see the federal government make sure that companies don’t compel consumers to enter into these contracts. Even if you do take the eight hours and 59 minutes to read a document like this, for the average person it’s very hard to understand.
“You don’t really know what rights you’re giving up and what issues you may face.”
In its review of the Kindle agreement, Choice said it found several clauses that would likely be deemed unfair under Australian consumer law. For example, agreeing to the Amazon contract compelled consumers to follow an arbitration process in the US and “expressively waive any other jurisdiction for a dispute”.
Australian consumer law grants consumers the right to a remedy direct from the retailer or manufacturer.
Though Amazon could be precluded from enforcing that clause by unfair contract legislation in Australia, Godfrey said it was still unreasonable and muddied the waters for consumers.
“You shouldn’t be forced to sign a contract with these terms,” Godfrey said. “You’ve got to remember, you’re just an individual and you’re up against an incredibly large, powerful, well-resourced organisation. The least they could do is provide you with this information in a simple-to-understand form.
“[But] the reason they bury you in this fine print is because it’s in their interests to do so.”
Asked whether Choice had had any indication of the federal government’s willingness to act on its campaign, Godfrey said it was “early days”.