Beware before you sign

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The creation of price zoning, the economic or forced migration of supporters from or to different parts of the stadium, the removal of concessions . . . The least controversial aspect of the Membership Scheme for most people is probably the actual membership scheme itself – that is, joining a scheme that involves monthly payments spread over the year. But there are some hidden – and very possibly illegal – pitfalls in Hull City Tigers Ltd’s arrangements.

We’ve identified a number of issues within the Terms & Conditions of the Scheme. If you’ve decided to join, you might like to consider these before putting pen to paper. We’re raising these with the club ourselves; whilst they routinely do not respond to us, we have recourse with some of these issues to raise them with a higher authority, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office. It may help if individual supporters also speak to the Club if they share our concerns.

 

A membership scheme or not?

Despite the name, whether this is a genuine membership agreement is questionable. All the Scheme does is confer the right to attend certain matches. It confers no shares or rights of ownership in the Club, in contrast to, say, a social club where the club and its assets are owned by the members. It is more likely to be regarded as a contract for services, which is significant legally as that would bring into play consumer protection legislation and specifically the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (which is especially relevant in the section Monthly Direct Debit below).

 

Your personal information

The most worrying issue is that of your personal information, and it’s our belief that the Club may be acting in breach of the Data Protection Act and the associated Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

If you’ve now had your pack from the Club you’ll see that in order to apply you have to sign the form agreeing to the separate terms and conditions. These T&Cs are not provided – you have to go online for them (bear in mind that not everyone has computer access). Buried within there are a number of sections regarding your personal data:

2.4     By submitting the Application a Member will authorise the Club to obtain and use information about that Member, any Additional Members and any Guests which is “personal data” within the meaning of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of marketing Club products, administering the Scheme and ascertaining the Member’s creditworthiness (including but not limited to delivering all or any of the information in the Application to any relevant hosting club or away venue or to any third party to whom the Club may assign, transfer or license the Club’s rights). 

12.2 (4)    the Applicant warrants that it has the permission of any other persons listed in the Application to disclose those persons’ personal information to the Club for the purpose of the Application;

12.2 (6)     for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 the Applicant authorises the Club to deliver to third parties details of the Applicant’s name and addresses and contact numbers (and any other such information listed in the Application) as described above and, if the Application is accepted by the Club and the Membership Agreement entered into, to use such information to administer and compile a register of members of the Scheme and to market Club products.

Both 12.4 and 12.2 (4) effectively places upon the Member the onus of guaranteeing the consent of the other persons listed in the application to the use of those persons’ personal data and gives authorisation to the Club to utilise that data. Yet the person giving consent and authorisation should be the individual whose data is being held and used; the Club cannot know whether permission has been sought and obtained from other people by the Applicant.

The Club also has to demonstrate that the individual has consented in order to use personal details for marketing. ‎There’s a case to argue that if, as in this instance, the marketing consent is buried in a load of other conditions, the Club might struggle to prove that the consent was knowingly given.

You will often need a person’s consent before you can send them a marketing message. If you do need consent, then – to be valid – consent must be knowingly given, clear and specific. It must cover both your particular organisation and the type of communication you want to use (eg call, automated call, fax, email, text). It must involve some form of positive action – for example, ticking a box, clicking an icon, sending an email, or subscribing to a service – and the person must fully understand that they are giving you consent. You cannot show consent if you only provide information about marketing as part of a privacy policy that is hard to find, difficult to understand, or rarely read.

The clearest way to obtain consent is to ask the customer to tick an opt-in box confirming they are happy to receive your marketing calls, faxes, texts or emails . . . Remember that the customer is entitled to withdraw their consent at any time (Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office)

The Club might argue that it has the benefit of the exemption under the DPA which allows the processing of personal data for the marketing of its own products and services, but there are two important limitations on that right. First, the exemption does not allow the transfer of data to third parties for purposes which at best are wide and unspecified. Secondly, the Club still has to follow the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations in respect of e-mail marketing, which requires at the very least what is known as the “soft opt-in” (which effectively allows marketers to operate on an opt-out basis provided a number of conditions are met). There is no legal definition of what constitutes consent, although it is clear from the EU legislation from which the DPA originates that consent must be “signified” in some way. It is also clear – and this is a key point – that the data subject (i.e. the customer) must have the right to refuse consent. Exemption or not, what the Club is doing in order to obtain “consent” is highly questionable, and there are examples of similar behaviour having been stated by the Information Commissioner’s Office to have been unlawful.

But in the case of Hull City Tigers Ltd, the situation is worse than just receiving marketing you do not want. Look again at the Conditions 12.2 (6):

for the purposes of the Data Protection Act 1998 the Applicant authorises the Club to deliver to third parties details of the Applicant’s name and addresses and contact numbers (and any other such information listed in the Application)

This Condition is undoubtedly a case of bad drafting, because the Club’s intention is clearly that third parties should have access to personal data for marketing purposes. The whole of Condition 12.2 is prefaced by the words, “For the purposes of the Application”, which means that all the authorities granted by Members under Clause 12.2 are for the purposes of the Application only. How then can the marketing of Club products be “for the purposes of the Application”?

The Club is requiring that you allow them to give your private information to any third party they care to give it to, though it doesn’t actually state the purpose for which it can be used. Do you really want that to happen? And, if you seek to withdraw your consent after having signed up to the Scheme, the Club could argue that under Condition 9.1(2) it has the right to terminate your membership”:

9.1    The Club may terminate the Membership Agreement immediately at any time by giving the Member written notice of termination if any of the following events occur:

(2)     the Member, any Additional Member or any Guest fails to comply with any of the terms of the Membership Agreement, including these Conditions or the Ticket Rules (or, if such failure to comply is in the opinion of the Club capable of remedy, such failure to comply is not remedied within 14 days or such longer time as may be specified by the Club)

 

Monthly direct debit

When you bought a season pass, you knew that was it for the season. Not so with this Scheme:

5.2     Without prejudice to conditions 3.2 above and 13.1 below, the Club may change the Monthly Fee, the Rights and/or any part of these Conditions at any time by giving to the Member not less than 90 days’ prior written notice of any such change. 

Whilst you would reasonably expect the cost to change after the season’s end, the Club says it can in fact up the cost of your direct debit at any time during the season. It’s not hard to imagine that when it discovers that – surprise, surprise – less people joined the scheme than it had expected, the Club might seek to make up the lost revenue by increasing its charge to members. Remember, it has nowhere said that it will keep to these pricing levels throughout the 2016/17 season. However, the right unilaterally to increase charges or make other changes to the membership agreement which the Club purports to reserve to itself is unlawful by virtue of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

 

Credit checks

Did you think you were joining a Membership Scheme or were you buying something on credit? If the former, you might be surprised by condition 12.2 (1):

the Applicant authorises the Club to use the information provided in the Application to ascertain the credit worthiness of the Applicant and to deliver that information to the Club’s bankers or other agent for that purpose

In what way are you are entering a credit agreement with the Club? Paying a monthly membership wouldn’t normally lead you to believe you were taking out a credit agreement. What is the credit arrangement is that’s being supplied? If you cancel your Membership, could you be in breach of your credit arrangement and have a black mark put against your credit record? And if it’s not a credit agreement why is the Club checking your credit worthiness?

Actually, a “pay as you go” membership arrangement, under which the customer pays monthly for an ongoing service, is not regarded as “credit” for the purposes of consumer credit legislation. If the Club is saying that it is, not only is it in error but that would make the Membership Scheme documentation completely wrong because there are a plethora of strict and highly complex rules governing the content, layout and appearance of regulated consumer credit documentation with which this documentation does not even start to comply.

 

More charges

There are further surprises ahead, especially for members who live outside of Hull. So we have 4.4:

If the Member fails to pay any applicable Joining Fee, any Monthly Fee or any other sum due to be paid by the Member under the Membership Agreement on the relevant due date for payment, the Club may charge an administration fee of £25. 

Administration fees like this can’t simply be plucked out of the air in order to be punitive, they have to be commensurate with the effort required by the Club to administer a missed payment. This level of payment appears excessive.

Then there are the charges for away match tickets in 10.4:

Unless the Member or Additional Member expressly notifies the Club that they wish to collect their away match tickets from the Stadium, the Club will post all away match tickets to the Member/Additional Member and the Member/Additional Member will incur an additional charge of £2.50 per delivery in respect of the Club’s postage costs.

This season the charges for postage are a reasonable 0.60p. Again, this large increase is hard to justify and is essentially a tax on people living outside Hull who follow Hull City away. Even worse happens if your card is stolen or lost and you don’t live in Hull:

13.21    If any Stadium Access Card is lost or stolen then the Member, Additional Member or Guest named on the relevant Stadium Access Card or Guest ticket (as the case may be) must visit the Stadium in person to provide the Stadium ticket office with written confirmation of that fact . . .

Why is the Club requiring people who may live hundreds of miles away to turn up in person to provide information in writing? Isn’t there a postal service?

 

Which matches do you get?

Under section 1 (Definitions) “the Matches” are:

the Hull City matches which a Member or Additional Member is entitled to attend at the Stadium depending on their Membership Level.  For all Members and Additional Members this excludes any cup or friendly matches at the Stadium unless the relevant Member/Additional Member separately purchases a ticket to attend the relevant friendly match (each such ticket to be individually loaded onto the relevant Member’s/Additional Member’s Stadium Access Card). 

The definition is silent on the status of play-off matches and European mini-league matches. Are these included or excluded? There is no definition of a “Cup” match.  FA Cup? League Cup? European (sigh – remember those days?) competitions?

 

And finally . . .

As we’ve said, we’re asking questions of the Club about these issues. If you are thinking of joining the Membership Scheme, you might like to as well. Because another clause you’re agreeing to by signing is:

12.9    The Applicant acknowledges that the Applicant has had sufficient opportunity to obtain independent legal and financial advice in respect of the Application, the Conditions and the Brochure.

But, of course, the cost of taking legal and financial advice on these T&Cs would easily exceed the cost of a season’s membership. For the Club to try and hide behind this kind of weasel wording is, frankly, contemptible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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23 Comments

  1. Clive Walker on

    This is getting out of hand. I am unsure as to what value this is to anyone, other than to use pseudo intellectual one eyed babble to try and keep the pot boiling. Many will take from this, that yet again, the club are somehow trying to have one over on the fans, whereas if you read any agreement you have with your bank/broadband supplier/gas co, they have much greater rights over you, your information and service provision than anything the membership agreement seeks to establish. As with any contract, if you don’t like the deal don’t sign it. But, if you wish to have the service i.e. watch and support the team you may have for years, then this may be a small price worth paying.
    I am not sure why the writer would take the time to undertake this overextended analysis. It serves no purpose other than to obfuscate the issue and drive a further wedge between fans and the club. I for one and the fans that I sit with are getting tired of the vitriol and efforts to prolong the issue. True fans want a balanced view and rational attempts to resolve with the club, This article again confirms that HCST are not the organisation that can fulfil that role

    • We want to resolve this with the club but that’s difficult when their response to any approach is silence. They’ve completely stone-walled the fans for two years. All we hear from the people that make the decisions is the odd article in the Yorkshire Post, and even then they never address the fans’ concerns.

      Some of these concerns are legal issues – we know the club behave immorally but if they’re behaving illegally as well then we absolutely won’t accept that. We’ve had a lawyer look into this and we think the scheme is wrong. As a Supporters’ Trust it’s in our mandate to investigate these things, take it up with the club and let fans know. As the article states, most people won’t be able to have a lawyer look over the T&Cs for them.

  2. You can cancel the membership at any time and it is direct debit. I currently sit in the West upper and would lie to stay there however I am prepared to move and support the club. I can see that on the new scheme people will be saving money. Scallywag thief’s are costing the club a lot of money by buying child tickets for adults. I don’t have a problem with the system at all. If you don’t like it then don’t buy into it end of! CTWD or whatever your called now have found another mechanism to have a go for their own underlying reasons. Support them and you have been manipulated into doing something that you would not have done if you knew those reasons. I’m saying no more!

    • ruisliptiger on

      Your right John. Which is why I won’t be joining it. As a father of 4, I will be paying significantly more. But feel free to pull that ladder up Jack. Have fun shouting over to the person sat next to you.

    • “If you don’t like it then don’t buy into it” – this is the problem! Many won’t even have that choice and as you suggest plenty will choose to not go. Our club has lost 6,000 fans compared to the last season when we were relegated to the Championship (and that year we were 22nd at one point) and we will lose many more if this scheme goes ahead. No one enjoys the negativity – we’d rather have an easy life and not have to campaign against anything. But alas the club keep coming up with these ideas. Obviously plenty of people do have a problem with the system, hence the almost unanimous support for the protest the other night.

  3. (disclaimer – no sport loyalties whatsoever here)
    I’m not one for getting involved in seemingly political issues, but there are actual things that you have to question the need for here. Working by day somewhere where Data Protection is a massive deal (education), and running my own business where terms and conditions are designed to protect me as well as my client’s expectations, I’m a stickler for them. For your utility companies comparison, unless you pay lots upfront they can become big bills – credit checks aren’t a surprise. For a football club, it is ridiculous to demand that power of investigation. And the right to change fees during the year, that’s unsporting as well as showing bad planning (a business like this should budget for the year, based on their guaranteed / reasonably expected income once the season is on the verge of starting).
    Remember you don’t NEED this. Credit checks are usually for things you need, not luxuries/passions (depending on your situation / viewpoint).
    I hope the ICO are consulted on most of these points, and their response is just as detailed as this post.

  4. Jon Tennison on

    Yes, that’s correct Clive, they will, because it is. If you want to sit there and take it, that’s up to you, but I think there are rather more people in the opposite camp and that’s way beyond the membership numbers of HCST. It is extremely difficult to have any resolution – rational or otherwise – with the club at the moment as it is refusing to engage with anyone on the issue. Although I’m sure James Mooney may buy you and your mates a pint.

    • I wouldn’t engage with someone who is trying to bring me down. Can someone actually tell me what the problem is with the new membership system? If i have to move seats I will move. If I have to pay more for a good seat then I will. Can anyone also tell me who will be priced out of going to a game? If people have to move seats to pay the same or less then what is the problem with that? If you want a premium seat then you have to pay more for it. Am I missing something?

      • Families with kids are being priced out and for me that is just downright wrong. I refuse to support this. Also why would I have to pay £2.50 to get my away ticket posted when it cost 60p this season (I travel from Scarborough every game). Well I’m sorry I won’t be buying into this anymore

      • The next generation of fans are being priced out. Children’s pass prices are rising by 900% How can that ever be justified?

  5. As a wheelchair user in the upper west stand we are in a no man’s land. I would like to agree with the post that we should support our club but it is hard when you are being asked to move to a position, probably pitch side ,which is infinitely worse than we currently enjoy. It really feels that we are not wanted. Anybody using the upper west will know that our lift has been on the blink for 2 years another indication of the owners lack of interest.

    I cannot condone the personal attack on the Allam family but you do wonder if all the unrest with the owners affected the players hence our 6 week dip in form. The membership scheme just stinks of an odd attempt to manage cash flow. We haven’t signed up yet

  6. Beware before you signs. Fair post and you can use it to gauge opinion. Maybe you should do that before manipulating people and or forcing ugly demonstrations on match day that makes many including the players feel uncomfortable. the red card bull put a downer on the game for me. The players must get affected too and the management. To me its a disgrace to put the players off when we can still make the premiership. CTWD (HCST) shame on you!

    • Put the players off? They won 2-0! Any player that’s put off his game by fans protests shouldn’t be playing.

      I can’t believe that legitimate concerns are raised by a supporter body for the benefit of fans and there’s still people that think they’re acting in self interest. Have you been asleep for the last 5 years? The alarm bells are clanging off the wall and all some of you can do is take ill aimed potshots at an organisation that’s highlighting potential ramifications of what is already a hotch potch scheme concocted by idiots.

  7. Clive appears to have missed the point.

    He is asking that we trust the club management to do whats best for fans as well as themselves.
    We are in this situation because actions by the club management and some actions by so called fans have broken that trust.

    When trust breaks down only dialogue will restore it. Meanwhile you depend on the contract to go forward.

    So the detail of the contract is critical. If the contract is written in such a way that it gives everything to one party and nothing to the other that just adds to the mistrust. Of cause the club management can do this (the law permitting) but should they?

    The author just points out what the management of the club have taken to themselves and asks fans to think whether they want to enter into such a contract in the circumstances.

    Clive claims the article confirms that HCST is not the organisation to attempt to resolve issues with the club but gives no indication of what organisation is. Probably because he can’t think of an organisation the club has ever listened to.

  8. Followed Hull City from the depths to the highs. To see morons like Clive Walker and John Plange denigrate the club makes me laugh. They must be plastic we tried to get rid of. We Are Hull. You Are Not.

  9. In my opinion a protest before the game will not put players off whatsoever. Their only thoughts will be to further their careers by getting into the Premier League, and Hull City is their vehicle to achieve that goal. A very large bonus on top of their very good wage no doubt awaits. The noise at actual kick off was very good, as will be the atmosphere at a meaningful match like a play off. Good work HCST. Let’s not take this up the proverbial in the good old fashioned British way. I’m proud of the fans sticking up for those whose loyalty has been abused.

  10. All you lot are a set of idiots trying to be legal beagles; you’re just punters and if you want to watch Hull City you do so in accordance with the club’s conditions. You are trying to be divisive because you simply don’t want to see the club do well. I go to all home games and most away matches and at the latter you can tell by the retro chants the mindset of you all. Football is expensive as are most things we like so if you don’t want to pay the asking price forfeit the pleasure and go and throw your **** in the pub; back off!!!

    • Well, Martin, some of us may indeed be idiots (the Trust is a broad church, after all) but one of our number who isn’t is a lawyer who specialises in these issues. As to accepting whatever the club (or any other organisation) charges you or treats you, not everyone is as passive as you. And most of us – not you, obviously – are concerned that young people and seniors are being priced out of watching City.

  11. I will save money on my season pass because the young and old pay significantly more. The new membership is a disgrace to the City of Hull and to football.

  12. Snaggletooth on

    I’m a bit sad, and I am sat here waiting for someone to call me back, so I thought I would read through the T&Cs myself. The following caught my eye:

    “6.6 Please note that any Home Members and Home Plus Members who purchase their Membership Agreement online or by any other distance means (i.e. not in person at the Stadium) will not benefit from the cancellation rights set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. This is because their Membership Agreement is an agreement for the purchase of services related to leisure activities to be provided over a specific period of performance (i.e. attendance at football matches).”

    This seems odd to me, because there is no end date to the membership as far as I can tell, so I don’t understand how it relates to a “specific period of performance”. Or is it just that the Distance Selling Regulations would apply if it was bought via internet / phone / post?

  13. Paul Hirscher on

    It is people like Clive Walker and John Plange that concern me. Is there anything at all going on inside there?

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