Interpreting terms and conditions

A recent post on a Starling Facebook group (see here, to me, raised an interesting question - how literal should terms and conditions be interpreted?

The account that the post related to was closed by Starling with 60 days notice because he violated the terms and conditions. While the real reason will obviously be unknown, we can speculate.

He sold used cars which apparently is against Starling’s terms. But the wording of the terms suggests that even buying a used car could risk breaching the terms.

Entities engaged in, or linked in any way to, any of the following activities may not open or have a Business Current Account with us… sale of used vehicles

That could be right or wrong, but I’m interested in seeing what others think. If someone bought a used car for their business, are they in breach of the T&C’s?

This isn’t just related to Starling as obviously all banks have T&C’s. This is just for a healthy debate, not dragging any bank down because they suspended an account etc.

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The queue for a Monzo business account must be full of Motor Traders.

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Monzo doesn’t seem to support them either it seems. Although the wording of their terms seems to make it clearer that you’re the seller. So buying a vehicle would be permitted (that’s how I read it anyway)

Industries we can’t support, no matter your business type
Certain industries have higher risks, where we need to put extra checks and controls in place. We’re currently focusing on industries that don’t need these.

  • used automotive vehicles

Whereas Starling specifically states, “entities engaged in” the sale of used vehicles.

I’m guessing the specific targeting of used vehicle sales is a Government imposed regulation, to combat tax evasion possibly?

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If you buy or sell a used car (singular), I very much doubt you’d be breaching Starling’s terms and conditions. The intention will be to stamp out people using personal accounts to get around motor trade regulations, tax liabilities, etc.

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I would take this as selling cars, not buying one.

I think clarity is important, and is something Monzo excel at in the example here compared to Starling.

I think terms documents should be taken literally, so there’s no room for ambiguity. Some folks, like myself struggle to go beyond the literal interpretation of words without a lot of practice and learning individual behaviours in order to teach themselves the nuance and be consciously aware of it.

ambiguity makes me feel insecure. Clarity makes me feel secure. Companies no doubt rely on ambiguities to screw over the little guy though, so I don’t see much changing.


Have you asked them?

I expect it’s meant to be the sale of used cars as a business, and not buying a used for for your business to use.

Either way a response from them can be saved away for later if ever needed