WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) today reintroduced the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act to require commercial websites and mobile apps to create a simple and readable summary of their terms-of-service agreements. The TLDR Act would increase online transparency and ensure consumers are informed about how their personal data is collected and used. Small businesses are exempt from the law.
“It is long overdue for companies to be required to provide an easy-to-understand summary of their terms of services instead of the pages of legal jargon currently used,” said Dr. Cassidy. “Americans have the right to know and understand how their data is collected and used.”
“Consumers deserve the ability to make informed decisions online without wading through confusing pages of legal jargon,” said Senator Luján. “Too many companies take advantage of consumers by burying critical details about their data policies and shield themselves from legal liability. The TLDR Act will help empower and protect consumers. Informing consumers is a bipartisan issue, and I’m proud to join my colleagues to provide real choice online.”
“Blanket terms of service agreements have forced consumers to either ‘agree’ to all of a company’s conditions or lose access to a website or app entirely. No negotiation, no alternative, and no real choice,” said Representative Trahan. “Some companies have taken advantage of this ultimatum to design unnecessarily long and complicated contracts, knowing that users don’t have the bandwidth to read lengthy legal documents when they’re simply trying to message a loved one or make a quick purchase. The TLDR Act will return power back to consumers by requiring companies to provide a simple, transparent description of what’s in their terms of service agreements, something the American people overwhelmingly support.”
Terms of service agreements, sometimes referred to as “terms-of-use” or “end user license agreements,” outline how a consumer may use a website or application. These legal documents have increased in length and complexity, leading to fewer Americans reading the terms of service before agreeing. A 2012 study found that it would take 76 work days for the average American to read the agreements for the websites and platforms they routinely use, and a poll last year found that nearly 9 out of every 10 Americans have agreed to a company’s terms of service without reading the contract first.
To address the potential for abuse with long, complicated terms of service agreements, the TLDR Act requires that online companies, with the exception of small businesses, include a nutrition label-style summary table at the top of their terms of service and tag the full, long-form terms with XML tags, making the agreements more accessible and understandable for consumers and researchers alike. It would also require that the summary inform consumers of how their data is collected and shared, including directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue guidance on graphic representations of how consumer data is shared with third parties.