Here's An Idea, Crossing Out Objectional Contract Provisions

Most consumers don’t realize that corporate contracts aren’t set in Jesus stone, but are negotiable documents. While we’ve heard of doing what the Corporateering site suggests when buying a new car…

3. Change a corporate contract. Corporations typically require individuals to sign long, standardized contracts that often have repugnant clauses, such as a waiver of the right to trial, in the fine print. Next time you are presented with such a contract, read it and cross out the objectionable provisions before you sign. No corporations can force you to sign a contract. Individuals have a right to negotiate that they rarely use.

..we wonder what would happen if you tried to do this the next time you bought a cellphone and plan at a store. At the very least it would be comical to see their heads explode. ADDENDUM: Both parties have to initial the changes to make it legally binding.

Counter-Corporateering Kit [corporateering.org]

Comments

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  1. beyond says:

    They would probably throw the contract away, kick you out of the store, and sign up the next shmuck in line who isn’t going to even read the contract.

  2. harleymcc says:

    I believe most of the contracts contain a clause that says that “No agent of the corporation has the authority or right to accept this contract in any modified form”

  3. harleymcc says:

    Like this…

    Any modification hereto must be embodied in a writing signed by both parties. The terms and conditions of Festo shall prevail in the event of any conflict between these and those submitted by the buyer.

  4. chrisgoh says:

    What if you cross out that clause? :)

  5. mxxcon says:

    also many contracts probably have a clause stating that contract must be accepted as whole without any modifications.

    on the other hand, you might not have some much luck with a low ranking clerk, store manager/owner might agree to modify contract terms.

  6. “we wonder what would happen if you tried to do this the next time you bought a cellphone and plan at a store.”

    The either ignore it completely and just take it, or get very, very, very upset.

    My husband does this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Including at a hospital HE WRITES THE ADHESION CONTRACTS FOR.

  7. ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild says:

    Ive dealt with this all the time. Back when I was doing wholesale mortgages brokers used to cross out our recovery clause (we could recoup fees if the loan defaulted in the first 12 months) all the time. We ignored it for the most part, it would never hold up in court (I know, it went to that once).

  8. Frapp says:

    While I do like the idea of crossing out items on a contract, what would you do if the contract and signature were presented in electronic form?

    When I was resigning with Sprint (to each his own), the entire contract and signature had to be read and signed on their electronic pinpad, which then printed on a receipt with the signature already applied.

  9. TechnoDestructo says:

    @harleymcc:

    Good, then if you still manage to get signed up for service….hey, you’ve got a plan with no contract!

  10. Crazytree says:

    There are two situations where you can do this.

    The standard cell phone contract… I wouldn’t even bother.. because they’re going to say that they didn’t consent to the modification, and your use of the services constitutes your acceptance of the contract as written.

    The only type of contract where this would work is the contract where they will close even if you cross it out. IE the mortgage loan contract, where the greedy broker cares more about closing the loan then the aftereffects.

  11. Scazza says:

    Yeah, I work for a cell company. If a customer modifies any of OUR copies we immediately reverse the activation etc. Our contracts may be
    “negotiable”, but the company just won’t agree with your changes… Yeah, i dont agree, its just policy.

  12. girly says:

    I have often wondered if I could line-out clauses on various contracts.

    I suspect you’d have to initial it and a company rep would have to do likewise for it to be valid.

    But what do I know?

  13. lawmage says:

    @Crazytree:

    They can certainly state that your use of the service constitutes acceptance of the contract, but it will most likely not hold up. You clearly made a counteroffer when you modified the contract. Now a court MIGHT rule that there was no agreement since the workers at the store weren’t authorized to accept the modification, but that would just get the contract voided rather than the original enforced.

    I am not your lawyer, this is for discussion purposes only and not legal advice.

  14. zolielo says:

    I love performing amendments properly, however, I hate it when that is done to me at work. As it needs to be researched and cross referenced often – first step. Then many other steps to get it squared away properly…

    Someone else can go into the rules…

  15. kelbear says:

    I doubt this will be of much use in cellphone dealings.

    In negotiation, you need power. As a single small purchase, you have only the power to make that deal or not make that deal. So the value of your purchase needs to be high enough to make a company compromise.

    A piddly little 3k for the cellphone contract doesn’t mean a thing to them. They’ll just rip it up and tell you to sign whatever they want you to sign. There is very little competition due to all the regulation and high barriers to entry. No competitor will negotiate, so they don’t have to negotiate either.

  16. CurbRunner says:

    By their very nature, contracts are negotiable documents.
    However, both parties have to agree to the elements of the contract.
    Companies that require you to sign non-negotiable contracts have chosen the “bad faith” route of negotiating by refusing to negotiate the terms. When you sign a contract without negotiating you have agreed to their “bad faith” tactic.

    The only thing that could change the stance of companies that use this method would be for large enough numbers of consumers to demand that the contract be negotiated. Companies would then have to look at their bottom line and make a decision either to fold and accept negotiations or maintain their stance and risk losing their bottom line.

    Consumers would also have to enter such negotiations with a clear understanding of what their own fall-back and bottom line positions would be.

  17. nequam says:

    Kelbear makes a great point, an individual cellphone customer has virtually no leverage in the matter.

    With respect to the suggestion that companies would accept negotiations of consumer contracts, it’s beyond far-fetched. It simply is not economical for a corporation to take the time to negotiate individual service contracts. Nor would any company allow frontline employees to negotiate on its behalf.

  18. matthewvermont says:

    I am a lawyer. It is not quite true to say that both sides must sign any alteration to a contract (at least one that doesn’t include some language negating any changes). The contract only needs to be signed by the party against whom an action is brought. So, if you cross out a clause and sign the thing and the company later tries to sue you, based on that clause, you are off the hook.

  19. arcticJKL says:

    I know someone who crossed out the homeowners association out of the contract.

    Both parties signed.
    Later when neighbors complained he informed them he wasn’t a member. That was all he heard.

  20. @nequam: “It simply is not economical for a corporation to take the time to negotiate individual service contracts.”

    I wonder if there would be any value to, say, a cell phone company providing you with a contract with 3 or 4 options for various clauses with checkboxes, and they could potentially insert monetary values to those options. Like if you’re willing to pay an extra $20 on your activation, you can pick the “no mandatory arbitration” option. (On the theory that that $20 over the whole subscriber base who choose that option would cover their extra cost for court rather than arbitration.)

    It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to track a limited set of contract options in a customer database.

    Would anyone do that? If the company gave you an option for more favorable terms at extra cost?

  21. Gump says:

    I am a lawyer who hates contracts.

    They can go to hell.

  22. brianary says:

    This is the main problem with EULAs. You can’t cross out ridiculous, objectionable clauses.

  23. killavanilla says:

    @Gump:
    Yeah.
    Right.
    I know dozens of lawyers. lawyers tend to think contracts are beautiful.
    Seriously. Perfect documents that are living and breathing and protect both parties.
    What’s to hate?

  24. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    In California, mandatory arbitration is illegal because it’s unconscionable. And as for EULA’s, in multiple court cases the plaintiffs (software owners) lost because the agreement was ridiculously long and a normal consumer can’t possibly be expected to read the whole thing and make any sense of it.

  25. ltlbbynthn says:

    When I sign up for direct deposit, I always cross out the part that gives my employer right to debit my account, too. I didn’t know about the initial thing, tho, thanks!

  26. Crazytree says:

    @lawmage: you’re right that you’re not my lawyer, because… [omitted nasty comment ;)].

    I have a good amount of heavy contract litigation experience [state, state appellate, Fed, 9th Circuit], and there is no way that a judge would even allow this to get to the jury… you crossed out some provisions of a contract AND NEVER COMMUNICATED IT TO THE PARTY CHARGED.

    Is a peon at a Verizon store authorized to ratify a modification or novation?

    If you tried to sue on this contract you would get non-suited in about 3 seconds.

  27. Crazytree says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: I would advise you to avoid e-lawyering… especially in a shark tank like this. feel free to give cites too, since that is what e-lawyering is really all about.

    your statement of law is 99.9% incorrect.

    binding arbitration clauses CANNOT foreclose a class of persons from pursing a class-action lawsuit against a tortfeasor corporation. that means that mandatory arbitration clauses are still “conscionable” [lole] in 99.9% of the actions on these types of contracts… credit cards, cell phones, collections, etc.

  28. eldergias says:

    Actually, only the party making the changes has to initial the change. The other party only needs to initial it if they signed the contract prior to the change. If they sign it after the change then they are agreeing to the alterations. Further, even if it is a contract they don’t sign (like cell phone contracts), if they enact the parts of their contract they are responsible for, the are giving tacit agreement to the changes in the contract.