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That consultation on small print: latest news (none)

30 March, 2018 at 5:18 pm, by

Today The Times reports:

“Tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been squandered by the government on public consultations that have come to nothing, The Times can reveal.

Ministers have commissioned more than 1,600 since the Conservative Party’s victory at the 2015 election, an average of more than two every working day. More than 500, almost a third, have not been completed, with officials saying that they are still “analysing feedback”. These include at least 202 consultations started more than two years ago.”

I’m not surprised – nearly two years ago we took part in a government consultation on small print. See this post. In July last year I prodded the relevant department, who replied in the manner of those phone queue messages that reassure that ‘your call is important to us…’.

I can actually report a little more now, because I put in a Freedom of Information Act request, as follows: “It is now an exceptionally long time since responses to the call for evidence on Improving Terms and Conditions were collected in April 2016. I am therefore making a Freedom of Information request for: 

  • a list of the organisations and/individuals who responded to the consultation 
  • a copy of their responses 
  • your timetable for developing and publishing the Government’s response 
  • a draft of your response, if it exists yet.” 

 

I did get the first item, a list of responders (see below) but that’s about it. Fans of Yes Minister might appreciate the reason why I can’t see the timetable for the government’s response: “The department holds no information in scope of this part of your request.” Translation: we have no timetable.

I didn’t get the draft government response because of ‘the need to protect the policy development on which the policy formulation process is not complete’. Translation: well, you get the idea.

And I didn’t get the a copy of the responses on the grounds that, for data protection reasons, they would have to redact any personal data such as names and contact information of responders: 

“The Department considers that in accordance with Section 14(1) of the FOIA, it is not required to respond to this part of your request due to the disproportionate level of disruption to the Department’s mainstream activities that would be caused in seeking to comply. In considering the Section 14(1) exemption we have sought to weigh the purpose and value of the request to make this information available against the time and resources that would need to be diverted from other work to meet such a request. 

In relation to the burden on the Department in meeting the request, you should be aware that the Department received in excess of 500 responses to the Call for Evidence. All of these responses will contain the personal data of responders and some may also contain information which is confidential and commercially sensitive, the disclosure of which could prejudice the commercial interests of those who took part. If we were to release this information, every individual response would need to be considered against the exemptions in Section 40 (personal information), Section 41 (Information provided in confidence) and Section 43 (Commercial Interests) of the Act. Any responses released would then require redaction of any exempt information. We have therefore concluded that the burden in identifying and redacting exempted material across this volume of documentation would be disproportionate.” 

But I can report that the following organisations responded:

  • Association of Accounting Technicians 
  • O2 
  • University of Hertfordshire 
  • Sport and Recreation Alliance 
  • British Gas 
  • British Telecom 
  • Vodafone 
  • Lloyds 
  • UPS 
  • SCS Sofa Carpet Specialists 
  • Sky Scanner 
  • Three.co.uk 
  • The Simplification Centre 
  • Sky UK 
  • EE 
  • Citizens Advice 
  • Money Saving Expert 
  • Trading Standards – Glasgow 
  • Association of Illustrators 
  • Citizens Advice Scotland 
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute 
  • Institute of Consumer Affairs 
  • Which? 
  • Barclays 
  • Hargreaves Lansdown 
  • British Vehicle Retail & Leasing Association 
  • Residential Landlords Association 
  • Home Retail Group 
  • JFR 
  • Association of British Introduction Agencies 
  • Bongo A Go Go Campervan Hire 
  • CSM Sport & Entertainment 
  • Sheffield Window Centre 
  • Banquet Chocolates Ltd 
  • SCOTSS 
  • Money Advice Service 
  • News Media Association 
  • BCS The Chartered Institute for IT 
  • Rosemary Bookkeeping 
  • AXA UK 
  • British Holiday & Home Parks Association 
  • EDF Energy 
  • ABTA 
  • Association for UK Interactive Entertainment 
  • Finance & Leasing Association 
  • Association of Accounting Technicians 
  • Telefonica UK Ltd 
  • OFCOM 
  • Tech UK 
  • Consumer Credit Association 
  • Council of Mortgage Lenders 
  • British Parking Association 
  • University of Hertfordshire Annex A 
  • Information Commissioner’s Office 
  • The Bar Council 
  • Scottish Power 
  • RWE npower 
  • Microsoft Ireland Operations Ltd 
  • British Banking Association 
  • England and Wales Cricket Board 
  • Association of British Credit Union Ltd 
  • Competition Markets Authority 
  • Financial Conduct Authority 
  • Radio Centre 
  • Mydex Data Services 
  • Forum of Private Business 
  • Safetosign 
  • Direct Line Group 
  • MBNA Ltd 
  • Civil Aviation Authority 
  • Rugby Football Union 
  • Luton Borough Council Trading Standards 
  • Building Societies Association 
  • Association of British Insurers 
  • Ombudsman Services 
  • Communisis Group Solutions 
  • Birmingham City Council 
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority 
  • British Horseracing Authority 
  • Hargreaves Lansdown 
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales 

2018 Summer School announced

24 February, 2018 at 11:00 pm, by

We’re very excited to announce the next summer school, which will be 10-14 September 2018. This year it’s at the University of Bath in the architecture department. This is the UK’s top-rated architecture school and they have a great new teaching space with numerous break-out spaces for small groups to work together. 

Another innovation this year is the advanced stream, for people who’ve been before. Quite a few have requested it (please come now we’ve organised it!). The programme is still flexible and we’ll listen to any thoughts you have. There will be seminars where we can discuss case studies, including your own work and ideas, and we’d like the project to be something significant we can publish or present at a conference. 

The 2017 Summer School: what people said

3 October, 2017 at 10:26 pm, by

Every year we ask people to give us feedback via an anonymous survey, and at the end we ask if they’d like to write a message for us to use in publicising the next course. This is what they said:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 days at the information design summer school. The quality of instruction, variety of topics covered, and the professors’ depth of experience was beyond expectation.”

“An intensive and amazingly inspiring course! A great starting point to exploring the world of information design.”

“[The best thing about the course was] the friendliness of the whole group. Rob and co really cared about developing us all as information designers. Such support and encouragement I cannot remember ever coming across in other training or education experiences.”

“Enjoy the possibility of sharing your projects during one week with renowned information designers Robert Waller, Karel van der Waarde, Clive Richards and plain language expert Jenny Waller.”

“We live in a cluttered world where meaning is difficult to find. Information Design is the skill which helps writers and designers extract meaning from chaotic instructions, lengthy descriptive text, contractual documents or opaque statistics. Information Design brings simplicity, clarity and understanding to our daily existence.”

“The summer school in Bath was really inspiring. I had the opportunity to meet interesting people, really good tutors and also attendees from very diverse fields. Sharing experience and find common problems encouraged rich conversations, full of hints and suggestions both practical and theoretical. It’s highly recommended for anyone who deals with information.”

“The summer school was an amazing experience. It was fun and inspiring, and the mix of students coming from different countries and backgrounds made it really special.”

“An excellent group of teachers! World renowned experts summarising their experiences and learnings to help us advance in our line of work.”

2017 summer school

10 September, 2017 at 4:10 pm, by

Here we are at the latest summer school. We had a great time, with learning in both directions – participants shared their own expertise, which included DITA, behavioural insight, health communications, emergency communications, and comic strips. 

Still no response to the consultation on small print

6 July, 2017 at 9:07 am, by

It’s over a year since we submitted a response to the consultation on consumer Terms and Conditions (T & Cs). See the blog post below:

I recently prodded the (renamed) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and they have replied saying: ‘The Government is committed to making T & Cs more transparent and accessible for consumers. We are still considering the responses and the Government will in due course publish its response to the consultation.’

We’ll continue to keep out eye on this, and we will be running some more Simple Action days soon to work on innovative formats for T & Cs. 

Simple Action 4: the small print