Unfair Advantage: What to Look for in a Consumer Contract

When you sign a contract, do you know what you’re getting yourself into? Here’s what to look out for to avoid being taken by unfair terms and conditions.

Are The Terms Clear?

Some terms and conditions are considered “standard terms.” These are terms that are either common knowledge, common sense, or are used commonly within an industry so as to make them standard terms.

For example, if a trader tells you in a contract that you have 30 or 45 days to exchange or return an item, this would typically be considered a “standard term”.

Parse The Contract For Unfair Terms

Not all terms in a contract are standard. In fact, some of them are unfair or prohibited. For example, in the UK, any term which is unclear or difficult to understand, possibly because of the print size or the language used, is considered to be unfair.

Terms which prevent you from carrying out your legal rights would be considered unfair. A term which prevents you from taking a trader to court, waives responsibility for negligence, waives responsibility for delays when those delays are the trader’s fault, or one which prevents you from keeping back payments when you have a genuine complaint are all unfair terms too.

Traders also cannot hide terms and conditions from you until after the sale, change the contract to their benefit after the fact, or make it difficult for you to end a contract by using unreasonably long or complex cancelation terms.

If you are injured as a result of the trader’s negligence, the trader cannot disclaim personal responsibility. In fact, many companies are experienced in dealing with these types of unfair terms and are able to prosecute even when a trader claims you cannot.

Check For Express vs Implied Terms

Express terms are those terms which are explicit in the contract. An example would be the price of the goods you’re buying, when the goods will be delivered, and when those goods can be returned if they’re not suitable or damaged.

Implied terms are just that: they’re implied but not explicitly stated in the contract. For example, when you buy something from a trader, you expect it to be in good condition and fit for the purpose you purchased it for.

An ice cream sandwich must be edible, for example. A hammer must be able to hammer a nail. Sometimes, these terms are referred to as “statutory rights.” Regardless of whether the trader outlines these terms and conditions in the contract, your statutory rights are never void.

A trader, for example, must honour certain refund rights you have under the law when you make a purchase over the Internet or phone, in your home, or off-premises.

What To Do In Case Of A Breach

When there is a breach of contract, it means that one or more of the terms was not fulfilled. When you breach a contract, the trader may pursue legal means to satisfy that contract. When the trader is guilty of breach, you may take him or her to civil court to have the contract satisfied.

Usually, this means a refund, repair, replacement, or a reduction in the sales price.

Maya Johnston works in the retail industry. She loves writing about her industry insights. You can find her posts on many lifestyle and money blog sites.

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