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New Mexico Senator introduces terms of service transparency bill

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(The Center Square) – A group of Congressmen and Senators led by U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, wants to simplify terms-of-service agreements for consumers.

Luján joined U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, and U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Massachusetts, to re-file the Terms-of-service Labeling, Design and Readability (TLDR) Act.

It would “require commercial websites and mobile apps to create a simple, readable, and accessible summary of their terms-of-service agreements,” according to a press release from Luján’s office.

“Consumers deserve the ability to make informed decisions online without wading through confusing pages of legal jargon,” Luján said. “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.”

Cassidy said that Americans should know how their data is being used.

“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,” Cassidy said in the release. “Americans have the right to know and understand how their data is collected and used.”

Additionally, Trahan said that users often do not know what kind of agreement they are making.

“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,” Trahan said. “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.”

It would take the average American 76 work days to read the agreements for the technology they use, according to a 2012 study. Therefore, most people agree without reading any of the contracts.

The TLDR Act requires online companies, except small businesses, to include “a nutrition label-style summary table at the top of their terms of service and include machine-readable tags to make the agreements more accessible for consumers and researchers alike,” according to the release.

It would also require these summaries to tell consumers how their data will be collected and shared with third parties and have the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issue guidance and enforce compliance.

The full bill can be read here.

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