Caveat emptor

Complex mandated disclosures – readily and regularly ignored – pay lip service to consumer protection. In this era of customer empowerment, it’s up to business to find engaging ways to meet regulatory requirements.

Conscientious marketers may aim to practice The Golden Rule, treating customers as they themselves wish to be treated. But real-world marketers swim in murkier waters, with regulatory and compliance concerns clouding the issue in the name of consumer rights.

The plain fact is that people seldom read the lengthy and complex “legalese” disclosures accompanying every direct offer, creating a false sense of security in the customer, and a false sense of effective customer service for the business. In short, it’s a box-ticking exercise in lieu of consumer protection.

… continuing to provide incomprehensible information in the name of consumer rights is to ignore insight

A lack of TLC in the T&C
A quick look at most Over 50s insurance direct mail offers demonstrates the difficulty marketers and consumers face. Jargon decoded, exclusions and limitations explained, special provisions provided, claims procedures set out, disputes
pre-empted, addresses and numbers for further information, inflation warnings and more.

All of it laced with asterisks and caveats, and shoehorned into the smallest possible space in tiny fonts which fail to take account of the target audience’s ability to easily read what’s been printed.

Even online, where space is not such a limiting factor, the disclosures are no more inventive, no more engaging. Just think of the last time you scrolled through the Terms and Conditions to click “I agree” when downloading the latest mobile app.

But there’s a balance to be struck. A larger font means a larger, more expensive package – or yet more scrolling. Bigger is no better guarantee of readability. If industry and regulators are serious about disclosure in the name of consumer rights, it’s time to acknowledge what is common knowledge: that “small print” of whatever size is no longer the best answer.

Tap for your Terms and Conditions
In an era of screen-based consumer empowerment, where an alternative provider is just a click away, continuing to provide incomprehensible information in the name of consumer rights is to ignore insight. Insurers, policyholders and prospective customers would all benefit from a focus on developing innovative ways to convey mandatory information in a format we know the customer loves: video.

Airlines are leading the charge, creating video – and now movies – to convey the oftignored safety drill. Frequent flyers who’ve seen it all before are sitting up and taking notice. And new standards and expectations are set for other industries to meet.

Perhaps it is enhanced vendor awareness – a sort of Caveat venditor – that will drive the innovation required to truly enhance consumer rights in insurance direct marketing.