Please Read Thi…zzz

As consumers, we are inundated with agreements. Visiting websites, signing up for new services, or often just updates to things we have bought or signed up for in the past, we are asked to agree to a lot of different provisions. But who takes the time to read all of that? Not even law professors who specialize in consumer law, according to one informal survey.

When asked if they read contracts before agreeing to them, such as those for rental cars, WiFi access at hotels or other establishments, or for a credit card, none of the 13 professors who participated in the survey said they “always” or “usually” do so. All 13 said they either “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “never” read the agreements, according to a report from Jeff Sovern, a law professor at St. John’s University who asked the question at an International Association of Consumer Law conference.

When asked if they read the required disclosures before entering into consumer transactions, 73% of respondents said they only “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “never” do.

Over the course of the past two years that Sovern has been asking the question at the IACL conference, nobody has admitted to always reading the fine print.

If law professors can not even be bothered to read contracts before agreeing to them, is it unreasonable to expect run-of-the-mill consumers to read everything that is thrust in front of them on a regular basis? Including what’s included in a collection letter?

Everyone in the credit and collection industry knows that the information in a letter or phone call is important for the consumer to understand. But agencies might be well-served to realize that when it comes to agreements and terms and conditions, a consumer’s eyes are likely to glaze over and their thoughts will turn to anything other than what is being put in front of them.

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