If you're off on a mini break this spring, and pick up an insurance policy to protect yourself from all eventualities, then brace yourself for a tedious and time-consuming 88 minutes - while you read the small print. A new study has revealed just how long it takes to read the jargon on each type of policy, and travel insurance is the worst offender. In fact, checking the small print for loopholes will take you longer than a flight to Paris.
The small print on a home insurance policy, meanwhile, would take 70 minutes to read. You could bake Mary Berry's 'perfect Victoria sandwich' in the time it takes to plough through a policy. The next most time-consuming is motor insurance at 65 minutes - more than the time it takes to drive from Swindon to Bath.
Next on the list was the small print on a credit card - which takes 26 minutes to read - or the length of time it would take to walk 1.3 miles. Finally, the small print on a mobile phone contract would take 21 minutes or the length of an episode of Coronation Street (if you skipped the adverts). Overall, the average time it takes to read a policy all the way through is 54 minutes - or the length of an episode of Game of Thrones.
It's worth pointing out that this study assumed a reasonable average reading pace, and didn't include reading and re-reading impossible jargon, or the time spent staring into space wondering when life became so dull.
Why is this so worrying?
Comparethemarket, which carried out the study, pointed out that small print running to as much as 47 pages was entirely unfair. Simon McCulloch, Director of Insurance at comparethemarket.com said: "Asking customers to read tens of thousands of words before agreeing to the terms of a product is a pretty unreasonable ask. Policy documents spanning upwards of 30 pages are incredibly off-putting and often it might seem much easier to simply tick the box without taking in a single word."
Dr Thomas Webb, a social psychologist at the University of Sheffield and Head of the Institute of Inertia agreed: "Lengthy policy documents describing detailed Terms and Conditions can lead consumers to feel overwhelmed and so they bury their heads in the sand – something that we call "the ostrich problem".
Mcculloch warns, however: "Terms and conditions contain important information about your policy, including details of excesses, exclusions and premiums. The fine print will be slightly different in each policy so by failing to read their terms and conditions, consumers run the risk of invalidating their policy by accident and potentially having to pay out thousands of pounds when they thought that they were covered."
The company is calling for all insurers to include summary boxes of the most important information in their policies - without the jargon - so people can easily understand what they are covered for - and what they aren't.
In the meantime, we have little alternative other than to bite the bullet and read the document - perhaps with an episode of Game of Thrones on in the background to remind us that while it's a horrible job, there are some things that are more gruelling and gruesome.