Educational Consumer Tips
Read Before You Sign
Your signature binds you to a contract
After you sign a contract, if you don't keep your agreement, the other party to the contract may take action against you. You have the right to cancel if you can prove the contract is illegal or was induced by misrepresentation or fraud.
Generally, if you break your contract without permission, you probably forfeit your right to your deposit.
You can free yourself of obligation neither by notice of cancellation unless it is accepted by the other party, nor by refusal or return of the goods. Repossession does not relieve you of any remaining obligation.
Nothing is "free" when in your contract you agree to pay for it.
Don't sign unless you can and intend to do what you agree to do.
Don't sign because of any verbal promise that the contract can be canceled later.
Your complaint against the seller does not relieve you of your obligation to pay the finance company or bank - unless the law in your area provides otherwise.
The law permits notice of cancellation of certain types of contracts at a certain time and according to certain procedures. Examine your contract for any provisions regarding cancellation. This is particularly important when the contract was signed in your home or at some place other than the normal place of business of the seller.
Finance charges must be expressed in dollars and cents and also as an annual percentage rate.
Read every sales agreement before you sign it
You can save yourself from paying for things you do not receive by reading every sales, service, or work agreement before you sign it. Every such paper you sign is probably a contract. It usually binds both you and the seller to do certain things. Contracts can be long or short, but they don't have to look legal to be binding. Because most contracts are written to protect the seller, watch to see that the contract also protects you.
You and the seller are not bound by anything that is not in the contract, but you, the seller or both, are bound by everything that is written in the contract. Be sure that the contract tells what the seller will do for you, as well as what you are to do. Generally, verbal representations do not count legally, once you sign a contract unless they are in the contract. If they are important, have them written in the contract.
If something in the contract does not apply to you
If a clause in the contract is not what you bargained for, cross it out. If the seller will not accept it that way you don't have to sign. Sometimes a salesperson will tell you "That's only there for special conditions," or "Pay no attention to that because we never enforce it," or "This clause doesn't apply to you." Don't accept this. The paper you sign is what counts.
Of course, there are some terms and conditions which must be part of a legal contract.
Never sign a blank contract
Never sign a contract where the work to be done or the merchandise to be purchased or the price and terms of the product or service are blank and will be filled in later. It's like signing a blank check. Wait until everything you want is specified in the contract before you sign it. Once you attach your signature, it is difficult to prove later that the paper was blank when signed. The laws of some states require that conditional sales contracts and certain other types of contracts be filled in complet ely when signed, and, in many states, that you be given a copy of it when you sign it. Whether required by law or not, you are entitled to a copy of any contract or agreement you sign.
- Contracts with tricky terms are used by tricky concerns. Be sure that any writing in the contract is clearly understood and legible.
- In those contracts where the law allows cancellation in writing within a prescribed time, the BBB recommends this notice be sent certified mail, return receipt requested, or by telegram.
- Many contracts carry provisions, often in small type, which read to the effect that no representations other than those contained in the contract itself are recognized.
- The term "guaranteed" when used alone, means little and is ambiguous. Guarantees, unless specific, may be worthless.
- In connection with home improvement and remodeling contracts, don't sign completion slips before the work is finished satisfactorily.
- An installment sales contract should contain an itemized listing of all charges, and you should get a copy at the time of signing.
Watch for these things in every contract
- Be sure the contract covers everything you want, and is priced, as agreed.
- Be sure the contract covers all extra work and is properly priced, is specific, and is all that the salesperson promised.
- Be sure you are not agreeing to pay for anything you do not want.
- Read every line before you sign. Be sure to read the fine print. Be sure it does not take away rights you thought were yours.
- Deal only with a reputable concern.
Questions and Comments
Question Submitted 4/9/2013I have a signed contract btwn my roofing co. and client. The client is no longer returning my calls although no issues have been brought to my attention. The contract was signed about a month ago, no other company has done the work do I have any legal recourse to recover a portion of the money, you see I have taken out loans based on the contract.
BBB's Answer:I would file a complaint on bbb.org as well as your Attorney General's Office and licensing agency in your area to see if you can get the funds returned.
Views expressed on this page are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Better Business Bureau.
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