Consumers Don't Read Contracts, Even Ones That Scream "Danger: Do Not Sign!"

Almost nobody reads consumer contracts before signing, according to two separate academic studies. One study from NYU included a sample contract that bound the signer to stay until dismissed, do push-ups on command, and shock other participants, even if they “screamed, cried, and asked for medical assistance.” 95.6% considered the contract for an average of two seconds and then gladly signed.

The second study translated the findings into academic-speak:

Our findings support some of the common assumptions found in the literature and contradict others. The findings from the first questionnaire support the assumption that most consumers do not read most of the contracts in their entirety at the time of contracting. But they do not support the assumption found in some literature that a substantial minority of consumers read their contracts and thus might discipline sellers. The results also show that many more consumers indicate a tendency to read contracts after the fact. The findings of the second questionnaire show that at the time of contracting, the most prevalent rational-economic reasons for reading the contact are cost, length of contract and the prospects of influencing or changing contract terms. Cost and the chance to influence or change contract terms are also detrimental factors in consumers’ intention to read form contracts after the fact, as is the opportunity to learn new things about their rights and obligations under the contract. Surprisingly, however, legal jargon, print density and font size are not key factors in consumers’ decisions on whether to read their contracts.

See, it’s not that we aren’t willing to put in the effort, it’s that putting in the time has little chance of succeeding and definitely won’t “discipline sellers.” We do, however, zealously hunt down and cross out mandatory binding arbitration provisions.

Do you pretend to read contracts when commenting on consumer blogs? Tell us in the comments!

Studies Explore Whether Consumers Read Contracts
A Bit More on Whether Consumers Read [Consumer Law & Policy Blog]
(Photo: *_filippo_*)