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Stop! Don't Sign That Contract

Updated on September 6, 2012

When it comes to our money and businesses wanting to get it, most have heard the term Caveat Emptor, Latin for “Let the buyer beware.” It’s amazing to think that in this day and age some stores and organizations are still using the same old tired “tricks” to swindle consumers. It’s easy, as long as they remain uninformed about certain commerce laws. Thankfully, there are consumer watchdog organizations helping protect the public from unscrupulous business practices.

A good example is furniture stores selling on credit. Although most stores today honestly adhere to the terms of the Control of Goods (Marking of Goods) Regulations established in 1974. It laid down the law with a set of regulations concerning goods sold on credit or any type of deferred payment. It required all businesses to disclose the deposit, number, frequency and amount of any installments. That’s fine and well , as long as the seller also discloses the “total amount” to be paid by way of deposit and installments.” Sadly, sometimes this little item is purposely left out.

Fortunately most stores comply, at least loosely, with the law. The “total credit price “ may not be spelled out in stark, clear definition as required, but it should be somewhere in the ball park. Most customers can readily see the amount they pay in credit terms can sometimes be up to four times more than the cash price.

A recent investigation done by “mystery shoppers,” revealed other transgressions. They discovered some were reluctant to make their contracts available to buyers. When asked by the mystery shoppers if it was possible take a copy of their contract with them to study before signing, some stores said no. Others said it was against company policy and yet others said the contract would be explained at time of signing. One was told a copy would be mailed…after signing.

This is nothing more than consumer fraud. If scrutinized carefully, it may become clear some contracts are cleverly worded. Remember the guy who was told he would receive a contract copy in the mail, after it had been signed. This contract specified the customer had agreed the terms of the contract had been clearly explained to him and were completely understood. And also the goods had been inspected and were acceptable. This all before they had received the merchandise.

Unfortunately not just furniture stores are guilty of similar shady practices. Some particular cell phone network providers have been reported for problems arising out of their contracts. Usually these problems emerge with travelers abroad and roaming charges. Of course, these types of calls are expected to cost more, but nowhere near what one traveling couple were charged for several short calls made in South Africa.

When they returned home they asked their provider about the overpriced charges. They were told they had connected to the wrong South African network. Their contract explained it was possible to connect to a network not your preferred provider, but gave no information about rates if they did.

These are but a few examples consumers must be aware of. Of course, there are many others. Leading the fight for consumer protection is the Consumer Watchdog organization, previously the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. They are a non-profit organization which advocates for taxpayer and consumer interests, such as insurance, health care, political, privacy and energy issues.

If you need help with a consumer problem visit:


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Point well taken. Thanks. I will correct it.

    • johndnathan profile image

      John D Nathan 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas. USA

      Very good article. It's a good introduction to shady business practices concerning contracts, however the phrase "Shades of Nancy Pelosi!" really detracts from the rest of the article, and cheapens it.