Save the Trees, Kill The Contracts

Posted on Feb 14, 2013 in Life | 3 comments

Contracts.  Honestly.  Is there any more useless way to chew through our natural resources?

Today I opened a Spanish bank account and signed up for ADSL internet.  Both companies printed off 20 page contracts which I didn’t read.  Mostly because they were in Spanish so I can’t.  But also because I never do.  Don’t frown.  I’m willing to bet any money 99% of people sign these things without ever reading them.

But that’s beside the point.  The point is, I have paper I don’t need.  Lots of it. This information would be much more convenient as an electronic file.  I could search it for keywords.  I wouldn’t have to work out where to store it so I don’t forget where it is.  And it wouldn’t cease to exist if my house burnt down.

So why do I, in this age where newspapers are going out of business because ‘everyone accesses information online’, need a paper contract?

A signature.  That little squiggle I moulded off my Dad’s when I was 17, morphed into a change of last name when I was 21 and is now, at 27, nothing more than a bunch of swirls of differing heights skittering across the page.  I squiggled it four or five times on each contract (one for me, one for them) while thinking that this was absolutely the most absurd custom humanity refuses to update.

Not only is the paper contract useless and likely to get lost in a cupboard before rotting away, but the signature its designed for is totally useless as well.  Shops require a PIN for me to use my credit card or else ID like a driver’s license.  With no more than a couple of hours practice anyone could forge my signature.  How long has it been since a judge genuinely asked someone, “And is this your signature at the bottom of the page Sir?”

 

If its been recently, that’s a problem.  Firstly because the judge would be holding paper which has probably had at least 10 photocopies of it made for the various parties involved.  And secondly because it would imply we still believe in the uniqueness of a fancy swirl.  Let’s not kid ourselves; it was the best we could do for a good few centuries but now it’s time to move on.

 

There are so many technologies out there that allow us to use electronic signatures instead of real ones.  Why is no one making the corporates use them?  Why are the corporates not switching to it themselves when it saves so much money in time, paper and storage?  If the only thing between all the money I own in the world and a hacker is a set of 8 letters, I’d be more than happy to apply the same security level to a contract in a language I can’t read.

 

Perhaps alternatives fail us because paper is still so cheap.  Why inconvenience customers into signing up for an electronic signature when we can just plough through a rainforest instead? It’s expensive for banks to deal with forgery.  So let’s make it expensive for banks and shops to deal with paper.  Compulsory introduction of electronic signatures for all contracts.  Price-floors.  Higher taxes.  Something…

 

Don’t get me wrong.  Signatures are a wonderful part of this age’s culture; an artistic expression all of our own choosing that represents something indelibly important about us – our name.  I’ll honestly feel sad for my kids if they don’t get to create one.  The thrill of signing your signature in front of a complete stranger for the first time is practically a right of passage.

 

I’m pretty sure though that they’d prefer clean air and natural habitats.  And freedom from scrounging through filing cabinets unable to remember whether you filed under date, company name or contract type.  For goodness sake…

Bit of light reading over your coffee?