A recent High Court case has highlighted the importance of having clear and transparent terms and conditions in place, particularly for contracts made with consumers.
After playing an online Blackjack game on Betfred’s website in 2018, Andrew Green was informed he had won over £1.7m by hitting the jackpot three times in a row.
However, Betfred refused to pay out the £1.7m, claiming that there had been a software error which mistakenly gave the game a much higher chance of paying out a jackpot than was intended.
Betfred relied on clauses in their terms and conditions, which Mr Green had agreed to, which, Betfred claimed, entitled them to exclude their liability to pay out in the event of such a ‘malfunction’.
Mr Green sued for his pay-out, with the dispute hinging on the meaning and validity of Betfred’s terms, specifically their attempts to exclude liability for paying out prizes in certain circumstances.
Deciding the case
The judge ruled in Green’s favour, awarding him the £1.7m plus interest.
In doing so the court ruled that:
- The exclusion of liability clauses Betfred sought to rely on were “not clear or transparent and could not be relied upon.”
- Betfred had not defined terms such as ‘malfunction’ meaning the court must step in to interpret such wording.
- The meaning of important exclusion of liability clauses were not sufficiently brought to the attention of customers, and were therefore not incorporated into the contract.
The judge noted that it would have been possible to exclude liability if the terms had been properly signposted, upholding the long established principle that onerous terms must be fairly brought to the other party’s attention.
- Ensure your terms and conditions are clear and transparent. The more complex they are, the greater the risk that you will not be able to rely on them if there is a dispute.
- The more onerous a term is, the more effort must be made to draw this term to the attention of the other party. Techniques such as capitalising clauses, or making them bold will not automatically meet this requirement. If these terms are not sufficiently obvious, they will not form part of the contract and will not protect you.
- Important terms should always be defined in your terms and conditions, to avoid it being left to the court to decide their meaning.
For any queries on terms and conditions, we’re here to help – get in touch.