We all know that we should carefully read the terms and conditions of every agreement and every line of every contract, before we sign it, but we don’t. It’s easier and quicker to jot down a signature or click “accept.”
By signing a contract, you are bound to the terms of that contract. After you sign, 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 forfeit your right to any deposits made.
Below are some things to keep in mind when signing a contract:
You can save yourself from paying for things you do not receive or need by reading every sales or service agreement before you sign it. Consider every paper you sign a binding contract, because it usually is. Your signature binds both you and the seller to do certain things. Contracts can be long or short, but they don't have to look “official” to be binding. Most contracts are written to protect the seller, so confirm that the contract also protects you.
If a certain clause in the contract is not what you bargained for, cross it out and ask the seller to sign it. If they will not accept it that way, then you can always back out and not sign. Sometimes a salesperson will tell you "That's only there for special conditions," "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 any legal contract.
Never sign a contract where the work to be done; the merchandise to be purchased; or the price and terms 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. Always get a copy of any contract or agreement you sign, even if you have to snap a picture.
Other helpful hints:
Remember, in most cases, neither you nor the seller are bound by anything that is not in the contract; however, you both are bound by everything that is written into it. So be sure that it is clear on what the seller will do for you, as well as your obligations.
For more trustworthy consumer tips, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB by visiting www.bbb.org, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 800-763-4222.