Contracts Against Americans

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/31-8

by Ralph Nader
Published on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

It is time to shine the light on the big, affluent corporate lawyers who anonymously create those non-competitive fine print contracts we all have to sign to purchase goods and services.

It’s time for an open letter to these Darth Vaders of business law who have destroyed our freedom of contract and built a new road to serfdom made of corporate cement.

Dear Attorneys for Contract Incarceration:

Remember when you were at law school studying contracts? Your professor pressed you socratically to understand Hadley vs. Baxendale et al. You spent just one or two classes on what are called “contracts of adhesion”—those fine print one-sided contracts that only make up 99% of all the contracts we’ll ever sign.

There they are—page after page exuding the silent message of “take it or leave it.” If you “leave it”, then you must cross the street to a competitor—an insurance company, credit card firm, bank, auto dealer, hospital, realtor, airline, student loan company or cell phone company, awaiting you is the same fine-print contract designed to nail you to the mast. Then there are the shrink-wrap software contracts you can’t even see before you buy.

If your contracts professor bothered to explain why so little course time is spent on these standard form contracts involving trillions of dollars in annual sales, he/she might have used the French phrase—”fait accompli.” After all, the consumer signed or acquiesced in some way. That met the basic principle of a binding contract, say the courts (with a rare exception now and then) which is a meeting of the minds between the willing seller and the willing buyer.

Discussion over! As a shopper, prepare for the daily coercive harmony.

Imagine all the times you’ve “met the minds” of Bank of America, Metropolitan, Aetna, General Motors, Wal-Mart, American Express, AT&T, Sallie Mae, U.S. Air and your favorite time-sharing company for that vacation trip to Antigua. What a myth!

In this legal fiction land, the law presumes that you’ve read the fine print and understood it. Inscrutability is no defense. It doesn’t matter that law professors, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts and your partners admit to not reading the dense legalese when they shop. Why waste their time? They can’t get out of contractual prison anymore than you can. But you make zillions figuring out how to lock millions of Americans into one-side anti-consumer contracts.

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/31-8

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