NEW YORK PLAIN ENGLISH LAW
N.Y. Gen. Oblig. § 5-702
Requirements for use of plain language in consumer transactions
a. Every written agreement entered into after November first, nineteen
hundred seventy-eight, for the lease of space to be occupied for residential
purposes, for the lease of personal property to be used primarily for personal,
family or household purposes or to which a consumer is a party and the
money, property or service which is the subject of the transaction is primarily
for personal, family or household purposes must be:
1. Written in a clear and coherent manner using words with common and everyday meanings;
2. Appropriately divided and captioned by its various sections.
Any creditor, seller or lessor who fails to comply with this subdivision shall be liable to a consumer who is a party to a written agreement governed by this subdivision in an amount equal to any actual damages sustained plus a penalty of fifty dollars. The total class action penalty against any such creditor, seller or lessor shall not exceed ten thousand dollars in any class action or series of class actions arising out of the use by a creditor, seller or lessor of an agreement which fails to comply with this subdivision. No action under this subdivision may be brought after both parties to the agreement have fully performed their obligation under such agreement, nor shall any creditor, seller or lessor who attempts in good faith to comply with this subdivision be liable for such penalties. This subdivision shall not apply to a good faith attempt to describe the constant yield or other method of determining the lease charge and depreciation portions of each base rental payment under a lease of personal property. It also shall not apply to agreements involving amounts in excess of fifty thousand dollars nor prohibit the use of words or phrases or forms of agreement required by state or federal law, rule or regulation or by a governmental instrumentality.
b. A violation of the provisions of subdivision a of this section shall
not render any such agreement void or voidable nor shall it constitute:
1. A defense to any action or proceeding to enforce such agreement; or
2. A defense to any action or proceeding for breach of such agreement.
c. In addition to the above, whenever the attorney general finds that there has been a violation of this section, he may proceed as provided in subdivision twelve of section sixty-three of the executive law.
(As amended L.1994, c. 1, 36.)
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-152
Standard of plain language
(a) Standard. Every consumer contract entered into after June 30, 1980, shall be written in plain language. A consumer contract is written in plain language if it meets either the plain language tests of subsection (b) or the alternate objective tests of subsection (c). A consumer contract need not meet the tests of both subsections.
(b) Plain language tests. A consumer contract is written in plain
language if it substantially complies with all of the following tests:
(1) It uses short sentences and paragraphs; and
(2) It uses everyday words; and
(3) It uses personal pronouns, the actual or shortened names of the parties to the contract, or both, when referring to those parties; and
(4) It uses simple and active verb forms; and
(5) It uses type of readable size; and
(6) It uses ink which contrasts with the paper; and
(7) It heads sections and other subdivisions with captions which are in boldface type or which otherwise stand out significantly from the text; and
(8) It uses layout and spacing which separate the paragraphs and sections of the contract from each other and from the borders of the paper; and
(9) It is written and organized in a clear and coherent manner.
(c) Alternate objective tests. A consumer contract is also written
in plain language if it fully meets all of the following tests, using the
procedures described in section 42-158:
(1) The average number of words per sentence is less than twenty-two; and
(2) No sentence in the contract exceeds fifty words; and
(3) The average number of words per paragraph is less than seventy-five; and
(4) No paragraph in the contract exceeds one hundred fifty words; and
(5) The average number of syllables per word is less than 1.55; and
(6) It uses personal pronouns, the actual or shortened names of the parties to the contract, or both, when referring to those parties; and
(7) It uses no type face of less than eight points in size; and
(8) It allows at least three-sixteenths of an inch of blank space between each paragraph and section; and
(9) It allows at least one-half of an inch of blank space at all borders of each page; and
(10) If the contract is printed, each section is captioned in boldface type at least ten points in size. If the contract is typewritten, each section is captioned and the captions are underlined; and
(11) It uses an average length of line of no more than sixty-five characters.
Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 73, § 2201
This act shall be known and may be cited as the Plain Language Consumer Contract Act.
1993, June 23, P.L. 128, No. 29, 1, effective in one year.
Legislative findings and intent
(a) Legislative findings.
--The General Assembly finds that many consumer contracts are written, arranged and designed in a way that makes them hard for consumers to understand. Competition would be aided if these contracts were easier to understand.
(b) Legislative intent.--By passing this act, the General Assembly wants
to promote the writing of consumer contracts in plain language.
This act will protect consumers from making contracts that they do
not understand. It will help consumers to know better their
rights and duties under those contracts.
The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
"Consumer." Any individual who borrows, buys, leases or obtains credit, money, services or property under a consumer contract.
"Consumer contract" or "contract." A written agreement between
a consumer and a party acting in the usual course of business, made primarily
for personal, family or household purposes in which a consumer does any
of the following:
(1) Borrows money.
(2) Buys, leases or rents personal property, real property or services for cash or on credit.
(3) Obtains credit.
Application of act and interpretation
(a) General rule.--This act applies to all contracts that are made,
solicited or intended to be performed in this Commonwealth after the effective
date of this act.
(b) Exclusions.--This act does not apply to the following:
(1) Real estate conveyance documents and contracts, deeds and mortgages, real estate certificates of title and title insurance contracts.
(2) Consumer contracts involving amounts of more than $50,000.
(3) Marital agreements.
(4) Contracts to buy securities.
(5) Documents used by financial institutions, which financial institutions are subject to examination or other supervision by Federal or State regulatory authorities, or documents used by affiliates, subsidiaries or service corporations of such financial institutions.
(6) Contracts for insurance or insurance policies.
(7) Contracts subject to examination or other supervision by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
(8) Commercial leases.
(c) Interpretation.--This act shall be liberally interpreted to protectconsumers.
Test of readability
(a) General rule.--All consumer contracts executed after the effective date of this act shall be written, organized and designed so that they are easy to read and understand.
(b) Language guidelines.--In determining whether a contract meets the
requirements of subsection (a), a court shall consider the following language
(1) The contract should use short words, sentences and paragraphs.
(2) The contract should use active verbs.
(3) The contract should not use technical legal terms, other than commonly understood legal terms, such as "mortgage," "warranty" and "security interest."
(4) The contract should not use Latin and foreign words or any other word whenever its use requires reliance upon an obsolete meaning.
(5) If the contract defines words, the words should be defined by using commonly understood meanings.
(6) When the contract refers to the parties to the contract, the reference should use personal pronouns, the actual or shortened names of the parties, the terms "seller" and "buyer" or the terms "lender" and "borrower."
(7) The contract should not use sentences that contain more than one condition.
(8) The contract should not use cross references, except cross references that briefly and clearly describe the substances of the item to which reference is made.
(9) The contract should not use sentences with double negatives or exceptions to exceptions.
(c) Visual guidelines.--In determining whether a contract meets the
requirements of subsection (a), a court shall consider the following guidelines:
(1) The contract should have type size, line length, column width, margins and spacing between lines and paragraphs that make the contract easy to read.
(2) The contract should caption sections in boldface type.
(3) The contract should use ink that contrasts sharply with the paper.
(d) Consumer restrictions.--
(1) A contract shall have a statement that contains the following:
(i) A general description of the property that may be taken or affected by reason of a security interest or contract if the consumer does not meet the terms of the contract. The statement is not required to list all possible exemptions. As it may apply, the following statement may be used: "If you do not meet your contract obligations, you may lose your house, the property that you bought with this loan, other household goods and furniture, your motor vehicle or money in your account with us."
(ii) Contract waivers of a consumer's rights in residential leases.
(2) If the disclosures required by the Truth in Lending Act (Public Law 90- 321, 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) are made on the contract, then the statement of consumer restrictions shall appear immediately following these disclosures
Language required by other law
The use of language required, recommended or approved by a Federal or State statute, rule, regulation, commentary or official interpretation thereunder, including, but not limited to, the Truth in Lending Act (Public Law 90-321, 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), or the use of model forms required, authorized, approved or recommended by Federal or State authorities shall not violate this act.
Damages, enforcement, assurance of voluntary compliance and civil penalties
(a) Damages and other remedies.--Any creditor, lessor or seller who
does not comply with the test of readability set forth in section 5 is
liable to that consumer for all of the following items:
(1) Compensation in an amount equal to the value of any actual loss caused by the violation of this act.
(2) Statutory damages of $100. If the total amount of the contract is less than $100, these damages are limited to the total amount of the contract.
(3) Court costs.
(4) Reasonable attorney fees.
(5) Any equitable and other relief ordered by the court.
(b) Enforcement.--A violation of this act is deemed to be a violation of the act of December 17, 1968 (P.L. 1224, No. 387), known as the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
Limitations on liability
(a) Limitations generally.--There shall be no liability under section
7 if any of the following occurs:
(1) All parties have finished what was required under the contract.
(2) The consumer wrote the contract or the part of it that violates this act.
(3) The creditor, seller or lessor made a good faith and reasonable effort to comply with this act.
(b) Time limit for starting a lawsuit.--A lawsuit under this act must be started within four years from the date on which the contract was last signed.
(c) Contract validity.--A violation of this act will not void a contract or otherwise affect its validity.
(d) Class action prohibited.--Only an individual action may be brought under this act and no class action shall be permitted under this act.
Contracts, documents or leases covered by the provisions of this act may be submitted to the Attorney General for preapproval.
Waiver of rights invalid
A consumer cannot waive the rights given by this act. Any waiver is void, not just voidable.
Other rights and remedies preserved
The rights and remedies under this act are in addition to any other legal rights, remedies, claims and defenses.
Florida Stats. Ann. § 627.4145
(1) Every policy shall be readable as required by this section.
For purposes of this section, the term "policy" means a policy form or endorsement.
A policy is deemed readable if:
(a) The text achieves a minimum score of 45 on the Flesch reading ease test as computed in subsection (5) or an equivalent score on any other test comparable in result and approved by the department;
(b) It uses layout and spacing which separate the paragraphs from each other and from the border of the paper;
(c) It has section titles that are captioned in boldfaced type or that otherwise stand out significantly from the text;
(d) It avoids the use of unnecessarily long, complicated, or obscure words, sentences, paragraphs, or constructions;
(e) The style, arrangement, and overall appearance of the policy
give no undue prominence to any portion of the text of the policy or to
any endorsements or riders;
(f) It contains a table of contents or an index of the principal
sections of the policy, if the policy has more than 3,000 words or if the
policy has more than three pages.
(2) The department may authorize a lower score than the Flesch
reading ease test score required in subsection (1) whenever it finds that
a lower score will provide a more accurate reflection of the readability
of a policy form, is warranted by the nature of a particular policy form
or type or class of policy forms, or is the result of language which is
used to conform to the requirements of any law.
(3) A filing subject to this section shall be accompanied by a
certification signed by an officer of the insurer stating that the policy
meets the requirements of subsection (1).
Such certification shall state that the policy meets the minimum reading ease test score on the test used or that the score is
lower than the minimum required but should be approved in accordance with subsection (2).
The department may require the submission of further information to verify any certification.
(4) Any non-English language policy shall be deemed to be in compliance
with this section if the insurer certifies that such policy is translated
from an English language policy which complies with this section.
(5) A Flesch reading ease test score shall be measured by the following method:
(a) For policy forms containing 10,000 words or fewer of text,
the entire form shall be analyzed.
For policy forms containing more than 10,000 words, the readability of two 200-word samples per page may be analyzed instead of the entire form.
The samples shall be separated by at least 20 printed lines.
(b) The total number of words in the text shall be counted and divided by the total number of sentences, and the figure obtained shall be multiplied by a factor of 1.015.
(c) The total number of syllables shall be counted and divided by the total number of words, and the figure obtained shall be multiplied by a factor of 84.6.
(d) The sum of the figures computed under paragraph (b) and paragraph (c) subtracted from 206.835 equals the Flesch reading ease test score for the policy form.
(e) For purposes of this subsection:
1. A contraction, hyphenated word, or numerals and letters, when
separated by spaces, shall be counted as one word;
2. A unit of words ending with a period, semicolon, or colon, excluding headings and captions, shall be counted as one sentence.
(f) The term "text" as used in this subsection includes all printed matter except:
1. The name and address of the insurer;
the name, number, or title of the policy;
the table of contents or index;
captions and subcaptions; specification pages;
2. Policy language required by any collectively bargained agreement;
3. Any medical terminology;
4. Words which are defined in the policy;
5. Any policy language required by law, if the insurer identifies the language or terminology excepted by this paragraph and certifies to the department, in writing, that the language or terminology is entitled to be excepted under this paragraph.
(g) At the option of the insurer, riders, endorsements, applications,
and other forms made a part of the policy may be scored as separate forms
or as part of the policy with which they are to be used. . . .
MINNESOTA: Plain language in written materials
(a) To the extent reasonable and consistent with the goals of providing easily understandable and readable materials and complying with federal and state laws governing the program, all written materials relating to determinations of eligibility for or amounts of benefits that will be given to applicants for or recipients of assistance under a program administered or supervised by the commissioner of health must be understandable to a person who reads at the seventh-grade level, using the Flesch scale analysis readability score as determined under section 72C.09. . . .
Minn. Stats. Ann. § 256.016 likewise requires "all written materials relating to services and determinations of eligibility for or amounts of benefits that will be given to applicants for or recipients of assistance under a program administered or supervised by the commissioner of human services" to be understandable to a person who reads at the seventh-grade level, using the Flesch scale analysis readability score as determined under section 72C.09.
CALIFORNIA STATUTE REGARDING ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATIONS
Cal. Gov. Code § 11340
Legislative finding and declaration
The Legislature finds and declares as follows:
(a) There has been an unprecedented growth in the number of administrative regulations in recent years.
(b) The language of many regulations is frequently unclear and
unnecessarily complex, even when the complicated and technical nature of
the subject matter is taken into account.
The language is often confusing to the persons who must comply with the regulations.
(c) Substantial time and public funds have been spent in adopting regulations, the necessity for which has not been established.
(d) The imposition of prescriptive standards upon private persons and entities through regulations where the establishment of performance standards could reasonably be expected to produce the same result has placed an unnecessary burden on California citizens and discouraged innovation, research, and development of improved means of achieving desirable social goals.
(e) There exists no central office in state government with the power and duty to review regulations to ensure that they are written in a comprehensible manner, are authorized by statute and are consistent with other law.
(f) Correcting the problems that have been caused by the unprecedented growth of regulations in California requires the direct involvement of the Legislature as well as that of the executive branch of state government.
CALIFORNIA: Fraudulent or unsound disability insurance
(a) Purpose of section.
The purpose of this section is to achieve both of the following:
(1) Prevent, in respect to disability insurance, fraud, unfair trade practices, and insurance economically unsound to the insured.
(2) Assure that the language of all insurance policies can be readily understood and interpreted.
(b) Improper policy provisions.
The commissioner shall not approve any disability policy for insurance or delivery in this state in any of the following circumstances:
(1) Uncertainty, ambiguity, etc.
If the commissioner finds that it contains any provision, or has any label, description of its contents, title, heading, backing, or other indication of its provisions which is unintelligible, uncertain, ambiguous, or abstruse, or likely to mislead a person to whom the policy is offered, delivered or issued. . . .