New Proposal Would Let Companies Further Screw You Over With Terms of Service
Wednesday May 22, 2019. 02:03 AM , from Slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vice: A collection of unelected lawyers [from the American Law Institute] this week is quietly pushing a new proposal that could dramatically erode your legal rights, leaving you at the mercy of giant corporations eager to protect themselves from accountability. Occasionally, this coalition (including all the members of the Supreme Court) meets to create 'restatements,' effectively an abridged synopsis or reference guide for the latest established precedents and legal trends. While restatements themselves aren't legally binding, they're very influential and often help shape judicial opinions. Seven years ago, the ALI began pondering a new restatement governing consumer contracts -- and your legal rights as a consumer. Today, the ALI meets to vote on the approval of this latest restatement. But a long line of legal experts have been blasting the group's updated language governing consumer contracts.
Specifically, they noted that the updated draft language proclaims that consumers would not need to read a contract to be bound by its terms. The draft states as long as consumers received 'reasonable notice' and had 'reasonable opportunity to review' it, the contract would be legally binding. Under this model, consumers wouldn't need to even understand the contract to be bound by it, a problem given data suggests such agreements are often incomprehensible to the average user. The language was problematic enough to result in a letter this week by 23 state attorneys general, criticizing the ALI's proposal as a major threat to consumer rights. 'To call boilerplate language that consumers never read (or if they did read, could not understand) a 'contract' simply has the effect of locking consumers in to terms that are likely to be stacked against them,' John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at consumer group Public Knowledge, said in an email.
Traditionally, 'contracts' are legal documents that are mutually agreed to after negotiation between two parties. Functionally, this isn't how Terms of Service, which few people read and few people can be expected to read and understand, work in the real world. 'For some reason, everything you learn about contracts in the first year of law school gets tossed out the window when it comes to large companies unilaterally setting terms for consumers,' Bergmayer added.
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