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Another Unfair Online Contract

A man who racked up a £50,000 debt on an online betting site, Spreadex, has been released of paying the debt after claiming that his girlfriend’s 5 year old son made (very unsuccessful) unauthorised trades using his account. Mr Colin Cochrane argued that in a two day period when the boy, known during the trial as ‘C’, was playing on the computer he unknowingly made trades in gold, oil and silver, using Mr Cochrane’s account details, without Mr Cochrane’s knowledge. Spreadex took Mr Cochrane to court to recover the debt.

UK Deputy High Court Judge, David Donaldson, stated that the website’s Terms and Conditions were ‘entirely inadequate to seek to make the customer liable for any potential trades he did not authorise’. The site’s terms and conditions were found to be ‘unfair’, as one of the terms stated that ‘an accountholder is deemed to have authorised all trading made under his or her account number.’ Spreadex was unable to show that Mr Cochrane had entered into a separate contract for each trade made using his account and, as such, the Court held that Spreadex’s general contract applied.

Under the UK’s Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCR) written contracts must be drafted in “plain, intelligible language”, a benchmark which the Court ascertained Spreadex’s terms and conditions did not meet. The Court also stated that Spreadex had not made a sufficient attempt to inform Mr Cochrane of the relevant clause.

Further, the UK High Court found that the Spreadex contract was unfair because the terms of the contract put no obligations on Spreadex to make the contract accessible or to discover whether the transactions made under an account were authorised and because it made Cochrane liable, without limitation, for unauthorised trade made via his account.

Have you had your website terms and conditions subjected to legal review?

(The assistance of Alexandra Nash in authoring this blog is acknowledged).

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only. It is not legal advice nor is it a substitute for legal advice. Readers should seek legal advice on their own particular circumstances. Alan Arnott is a technology & telecommunications lawyer with qualifications in computer science and law with Arnotts Technology Lawyers in Sydney. For more information, please visit

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