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Fine Print in Terms of Service Can Cost Eternally

Donelan Andrews was rewarded with $10,000 by his travel insurance company, all for doing something he teaches students to do every day: read carefully. Squaremouth intentionally added language in its policy documentation offering a reward for anyone who was still reading the details. Their intent was to promote the idea of reading the details carefully, because failure to understand the details of what their policies cover is the number one reason why travel insurance claims are denied.

Of course, a denied claim is only one example of the kind of loss lurking in the fine print. In the United Kingdom, Manchester-based firm Purple provided free Wi-Fi access in 2017 for over 22,000 people. Buried in their terms of service was a commitment to a thousand hours of community service, which could include “cleaning toilets and relieving sewer blockages.” In a story with The Guardian, representatives from Purple explained that they inserted the clause “to illustrate the lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up to when they access free Wi-Fi.”

But even a thousand hours of service is a mere pittance compared to what Londoners gave up when they consented to the “Herod clause” of security firm F-Secure’s Wi-Fi experiment. That clause provided service only if “the recipient agreed to assign their firstborn child to us for the duration of eternity.”

Not to be outdone, British retailer GameStation once changed its license agreement to a pre-checked box. Unless users unchecked the box, they granted the company “a nontransferable option to claim, for now and forever more, your immortal soul."

Potential Preaching Angles: (1) God wants disciples who will willingly count the cost of discipleship, not be suckered into it because they weren't paying attention. (2) The details of Scripture matter to God. It is a matter of obedience or disobedience. Of course God cares about the details because he loves us, not because he’s trying to trick us.

Matthew S. Schwartz, “When Not Reading The Fine Print Can Cost Your Soul,” NPR Strange News (3-8-19)

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