In our increasingly paperless society, more and more companies are requiring consumers to sign contracts electronically, called “e-signing.” You may have encountered this yourself. A door-to-door salesperson promises you a deal that sounds almost too good to be true, but only if you sign their electronic tablet on the spot. An online lender guarantees to get you money now, but only after you check the boxes on the website. The convenience seems hard to pass on. You don’t even have to deal with the finicky fine print! Instead, you get what you want, and you can get it now.
The Pitfall of E-signing
The problem is – even though there’s no paperwork – that fine print is still lurking in the background, and it could potentially come back to haunt you. Little did you know that the table you e-signed contained a multiple page contract with fees that the salesperson didn’t mention. Or, unknowingly, you provided access to your credit report. You’ve been duped! And now you’re stuck in a contract that is costing you money as each day goes by, and there’s no end in sight.
Does the consumer have rights?
But all is not lost. Depending on the situation, you might be able to get out of the contract. In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are laws requiring that — in certain consumer transactions — you receive a copy of the written contract at the time of signing. For example, the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act states that home improvement contracts are not valid unless you get a copy of the entire agreement in writing. The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act requires that in any sale of merchandise, you be provided a full and accurate copy of the contract documents at the time of signing. There are laws in both states that require “cooling-off periods”, during which you can cancel or “rescind” the contract in its entirety. These contracts must also accurately notify you of your right to cancel. Consumer protection laws in other states give consumers similar rights.
Can I sue and get my money back?
Here’s the problem. When you signed that iPad or checked that innocent-looking box, you may have unknowingly agreed to give up important consumer rights. In all likelihood, your contract contained an arbitration clause, which means that you’ve given up your constitutional right to a jury trial, your right to appeal, and even your right to a judge. You probably also waived your right to bring a class action. This is significant, because if a company is nickel-and-diming you, it may not be financially feasible for an attorney to take on your case unless you have the ability to bring a class action on behalf of everyone who’s been scammed. But when you unknowingly sign your rights away and “agree” to have your case decided individually in an arbitration proceeding, you may not have any legal recourse.
How can I protect myself? Steps to Take.
Take your time and do not feel pressured by the salesman. It’s important for you to know all of the terms of the deal before e-signing a contract. Demand that the company provide the contract in writing. Insist that the company remove the arbitration clause from the contract. If you’re already “stuck” in a bad contract, Contact Flitter Milz, and we’ll evaluate your situation free of charge.
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