Educational Consumer Tips


Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Home Improvement

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 have the right to take legal action against you.   Before signing any contract, you should know your rights and responsibilities as a consumer entering into an agreement.

Tips on Signing a Contract:

Know Who You are Entering Into an Agreement With.  Review the contract for the company’s full name and contact information.  Visit to read BBB Business Reviews and Customer Reviews from previous customers. Make sure the business does not have any unanswered/unresolved complaints.

Thoroughly Read the Contract Before You Sign It.  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 might save yourself from paying for things or services you don’t want by reading and understanding the contract before you sign it.  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 commitments and promises do not count legally as they are hard to prove. If something was told or promised to you verbally that’s not in the contract, have the details added in writing.   Do not sign a contract unless you can and intend to do what you as the consumer agreed to.

Never Sign a Blank Contract.  Do not 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. Wait until all the conditions are 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. Insist you be given a copy of the contract when you sign it. Whether required by law or not, you are entitled to a copy of any contract or agreement you sign and it’s best to get it immediately after signing.

Review Clauses/Terms and Conditions.  Question parts of the contract that do 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. Once you sign a contract, everything in the contract applies to you unless otherwise noted.

Know Your Rights.  While most contracts cannot be cancelled, there are certain situations in which a consumer has a 3 day right-to-cancel as provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  To find out more about these rights, click here.

Business is better when both the company and customer understand what is expected of each other.  Contracts help to ensure that understanding.