Standard Form Contracts

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A standard form contract (sometimes referred to as an adhesion contract or boilerplate contract) is a contract between two parties that does not allow for negotiation, i.e. take it or leave it. It is often a contract that is entered into between unequal bargaining partners, such as when an individual customer is given a contract by the salesperson of a multinational corporation. The customer is in no position to renegotiate the standard terms of the contract and the company's representative usually does not have the authority to do so. While adhesion contracts, in and of themselves, are not illegal per se, there exists a very real possibility for unconscionability. [edit] Theoretical issues

There is some debate on a theoretical level whether, and to what extent, courts should enforce standard form contracts. On one hand, they undeniably fulfill an important role of promoting economic efficiency. Standard form contracting reduces transaction costs substantially by precluding the need for buyers and sellers of goods and services to negotiate the many details of a sale contract each time the product is sold. On the other hand, there is the potential for inefficient, and even unjust, terms to be accepted by signatories to these contracts. Such terms might be seen as unjust if they allow the seller to avoid all liability or unilaterally modify terms or terminate the contract.[1] These terms often come in the form of, but are not limited to, forum selection clauses and mandatory arbitration clauses, which can limit or foreclose a party's access to the courts; and also liquidated damages clauses, which set a limit to the amount that can be recovered or require a party to pay a specific amount. They might be inefficient if they place the risk of a negative outcome, such as defective manufacturing, on the buyer who is not in the best position to take precautions. There are a number of reasons why such terms might be accepted:[2] [3] Standard form contracts are rarely read

Lengthy boilerplate terms are often in fine print and written in complicated legal language which often seems irrelevant. The prospect of a buyer finding any useful information from reading such terms is correspondingly low. Even if such information is discovered, the consumer is in no position to bargain as the contract is presented on a “take it or leave it” basis. Coupled with the often large amount of time needed to read the terms, the expected payoff from reading the contract is low and few people would be expected to read it. Sometimes a standard form contract may literally be dispensed from a vending machine to drivers sitting in line to enter a parking garage (see photograph below), which means that stopping to read the contract risks provoking road rage. Access to the full terms may be difficult or impossible before acceptance Often the document being signed is not the full contract; the purchaser is told that the rest of the terms are in another location. This reduces the likelihood of the terms being read and in some situations, such as software license agreements, can only be read after they have been notionally accepted by purchasing the good and opening the box. These contracts are typically not enforced, since common law dictates that all terms of a contract must be disclosed before the contract is executed. Boilerplate terms are not salient

The most important terms to purchasers of a good are generally the price and the quality, which are generally understood before the contract of adhesion is signed. Terms relating to events which have very small probabilities of occurring or which refer to particular statutes or legal rules do not seem important to the purchaser. This further lowers the chance of such terms being read and also means they are likely to be ignored even if they are read. There may be social pressure to sign

Standard form contracts are signed at a point when the main details of the transaction have either been negotiated or...
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