Read the small print – if you can!

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TOO SMALL: There is a minimum size for written clauses. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

IF your bank tries to penalise you for running foul of their multitude of legal clauses, check the small print. Not for what it says, but for the actual size of the letters used in the document you signed.

A judge in Sevilla has just annulled a debt of €3,000 because the bank had used print where the letters were just half a millimetre big. It is a little known fact that there is actually a legal minimum size for small print.

The General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users establishes in article 80 that the requirements of contract clauses must be accessible and legible, and must have a minimum size of 1.5 millimetres.

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And this is the argument used by a court of first instance in Sevilla, which has ancancelled a debt of € 2,989 claimed by a bank from a client for late payments.

In his case, the letter in which the conditions for financing his credit card had small print three times smaller than stiplulated by law. The judge decided that the conditions were abusive because of their lack of clarity – quite literally.

This particular case may relate to a credit card agreement, but the regulations are thought to apply to all financial legal documents including home insurance and even mortgage agreements.

This is not the first court to invalidate a contract for including an illegible letter, with the Provincial Court of Castellon annulling a similar clause because the letters could only be read with a magnifying glass.

The Banco de España itself published a circular in 2012 stipulating that the size of the characters in any financial contract must be at least 1.5 millimetres.

“Contractual documents shall be drafted in a manner that is clear and comprehensible to the customer. In particular, the size of the lower case may not be less than 1.5 millimetres high. The contract must faithfully reflect all the stipulations necessary for a correct regulation of the relationship between the client and the entity, avoid the use of technical terms and, if this is not possible, explain their meaning adequately.

“The contract shall not include any concept that is unnecessary or irrelevant for its correct application and interpretation”, explains the financial regulator in the circular.

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