Beware tricky contracts

The West Australian, YOUR MONEY, October 31, 2016:
Exclusionary terms and conditions sure can bite
In case you plan on sending your little ones out tonight, here’s a Halloween warning. The mean and tight-fisted old bloke at number 35 will have his place shrouded in darkness.
That’ll be yours truly. Number 35 hasn’t taken too kindly to the invasion of American culture in the form of Halloween, pushed by our two major retailers.
That said, there may be a lesson in life for our little ones. Trick or treat really does exist in the real world.
It exists in form of contracts, rules and regulations that seem to catch us out on a regular basis. Most of us don’t read clause 264 on page 97 in the contract. Sure we clicked the button that we agreed or maybe signed the application, but for many of us the trick reveals itself when it is too late to undo the damage and the treat becomes irrelevant.
All these can make what seems like a treat turn out to be a nasty trick.
Insurance and finance are two areas where the game has evolved to an art form. Let’s take the treat of gym membership and a pair of running shoes being included’ when you sign up to a health fund or, even worse, transfer from a health fund where you are entitled to full cover without any waiting period.
On the first day of the new healthy you, with the new health fund and the new health club, you have a nasty twist on the aerobics floor and pop, there goes your anterior cruciate ligament.
The treat rapidly turns into the nasty trick when you discover there’s a six-month waiting period for you to be able to get the knee reconstruction you need to resume even walking normally, let alone run.
Or the treat of going on an overseas holiday and taking out travel insurance, ignoring the clause that says we need to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions.
We see the nasty trick played out on a regular basis with grandad stuck in a Balinese hospital wondering why his insurer is objecting to paying the $16,000 medical bill because he hadn’t disclosed he was being treated for high blood pressure.
There’s no easy way to avoid being tricked other than to heed the advice of those caught in the past. As a starting point, read the documentation and ask questions before you hand over the money or sign the document. It is simply an investment of time and patience.
In some cases, we won’t know what questions to ask, let alone what answers to expect.
Input from others can be invaluable here. It might be through a competent and trusted adviser, it might be from a family member who knows a little more about business and commerce than you or it may be courtesy of the internet.
The point is, information and knowledge is the key to avoid being tricked. Vihile there’s legislation to protect consumers from outright deception and illegality, the principal of caveat emptor is alive and well. The Latin warning simply means, “let the buyer beware”.
And so, we say to the little kid expecting a clutch of mini Violet Crumbles and Mars Bars from the grumpy bugger at number 35.
The lights are dimmed and we’re pretending no one’s home – we’re busy reading the terms and conditions of letting kids on our property.