Welcome to The Canal & River Turst

January 2017 - Allen Richards investigates

Pointing out other people's mistakes in type is always fraught for a news organisation – which makes enough errors of its own – but Allan Richards has braved the fates as this time a simple transposition of letters has wider implications.

It is a standard part of the argument when some continuously cruising boaters question the Canal & River Trust's policies: “You accepted the terms and conditions when you paid for the licence – you can't complain now.”

Now it seems that many, perhaps the vast majority, not only never read those terms and conditions but may be unable to do so with any ease. Whilst some boaters renew C&RT licences online others prefer to check and amend the licence renewal form sent out by the Trust and return it. Scanning the amended form and a cheque means that you have a copy of your application and payment should any query arise.

However, how carefully do you read that declaration you are signing at the bottom of the form? Are you concerned that you are accepting that C&RT can revoke your licence due to a breach of the licence conditions you agree to? Are you worried that you are giving permission to board your boat in circumstances additional to that provided by law?

The evidence suggests that most boaters are simply not bothered. They sign the form without reading the declaration or, at least, without reading the licence conditions.

The declaration reads: “I confirm that the information I have given on this form is correct. I have read and accept the licence conditions published at www.canalriverturst.org.uk/licensing.”

Read that again slowly. Still not spotted it? The link is misspelt. It says ‘turst’ not ‘trust’! Anyone clicking on the link (or typing it into a browser) will get an error message because the site does not exist. It’s been like that for years! Perhaps we have all been making false declarations because the licence conditions cannot be read.

Worse still, if you swap the ‘u’ and ‘r’ round so that it reads ‘trust’ you are no better off because you still can’t read them. The page you are taken to does not contain the licence conditions. In fact, it does not even contain a link to them! C&RT’s licence conditions are no fewer than 23 pages of its ‘General Terms and Conditions for Boat Licences (excluding Business Licences) – May 2015’.

With the question mark over the legality of these and Trust’s bullyboy tactic of refusing a licence until you agree to be bound by them, it is incredible to think that the Trust and tens of thousands of licence applicants have not noticed this.

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