The Importance of Reading Fine Print before Signing a Contract

Not Reading the Fine Print-
It always seems the obvious choice to avoid reading the fine print when agreeing to anything. Many times, someone will click the x on the box, which agrees to terms and agreements.This is done without ever opening the text containing the information relating to legal circumstances, which may arise from said purchase. Becoming more common, are instances of ordinary people facing ridiculous situations, simply because that person didn’t take the time to look over the fine print.

Almost everything these days has a set of terms and agreements, which must be agreed to, in order to purchase products, receive goods, and acquire services. These contracts can be as simple as stating that the company is not responsible if you do something unintended with your purchase to something as outlandish as restraining constitutional rights. The problem that is being presented from this ritual of signing contracts for everything, is the hiding of clauses within the text that can void specific rights of the customer, client, or worker.

Companies Restricting First Amendment Rights
In recent years, the non-disparagement clause has caused many problems for signers. As the New York Times reports, signing an agreement that contains a non-disparagement clause restrains the ability to complain or say negative statements about the company in question. As the internet’s reach increases, so to does the number of agreements containing this kind of clause, due to the ease in which one can now search for reviews about any given business.

Understanding the Terms-
Other clauses limit other specific rights. It is important to understand what each section of an agreement refers to, make sure each section properly defines all parties and terms in a way which is fitting to one’s beliefs. Depending on what matter is being dealt with, it is common to see certain standard terms pertaining to the subject. When technology is involved, a licensing opportunity clause is not usual to see, which lays out the terms of a company allowing the person who signed to use certain methods or information that is property of said business. These standard agreements help companies protect themselves against theft of a patent, but has the ability of allowing wording that may backfire on anyone who doesn’t completely agree with the company.

Stopping Contractual Trickery-
What is the solution to this kind of problem that is facing anyone who is facing a legal document that they must sign? Education seems to be the first obvious choice. Creating laws to stop this sort of issue is possible, but many companies will work to outsmart those laws. By learning what each clause is about, and understanding the wording within, each person can be empowered to make a real yes or no decision as to whether they really agree to terms and conditions or not. As this study from the University of Chicago shows, its only getting worse, so its time to start taking this matter more seriously.