Those who fell for the gag clause inserted into wifi terms and conditions committed to more than a month of community service
Do you read the terms and conditions? Probably not. No one does. And so, inevitably, 22,000 people have now found themselves legally bound to 1000 hours of community service, including, but not limited to, cleaning toilets at festivals, scraping chewing gum off the streets and manually relieving sewer blockages.
The (hopefully) joke clause was inserted in the terms and conditions of Manchester-based wifi company Purple for a period of two weeks, to illustrate the lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up to when they access free wifi. The company operates wifi hotspots for a number of brands, including Legoland, Outback Steakhouse and Pizza Express.
Purple also offered a prize for anyone who actually read the terms and conditions, and flagged up the community service clause. Just one person claimed it.
Its no surprise that people will agree to anything to get free wifi. In 2014, cybersecurity firm F-Secure ran a similar experiment in London, operating a wifi hotspot that anyone could use in exchange for their firstborn child. The so-called Herod clause was clearly stated in the terms and conditions, and six people still signed up. Though its not clear how many of them simply dislike their eldest children.
F-Secure also pointed out that while terms and conditions are legally binding it is contrary to public policy to sell children in return for free services, so the clause would not be enforceable in a court of law.
It remains unclear whether terms and conditions in general are actually applicable to the typical customer. While they are contracts, and usually considered legally binding as such, some have argued that the inability to negotiate them violates common law principles of fairness, leaving them void.