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April 2, 2024 

For Immediate Release:

The Worst of the Fine Print Traps in Everyday Terms and Conditions  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) released a report that identifies terms in standard form contracts used in the sale or rental of consumer products and services that pose the greatest risk of harm to consumers. 

These unfair terms appear in the fine print of everyday consumer products and services, such as bank accounts or credit cards, loans, cable or streaming services, concert tickets, and Internet applications. The paper highlights forced arbitration clauses, class action bans, jury trial waivers, shortened statute of limitations, waivers of rights and remedies, choice-of-law and forum selection clauses, limitations of liability and damages, pre-dispute resolution clauses, loser pays provisions, unilateral contract amendments, and confidentiality clauses. 

“The terms are not only hidden in the fine print, they also take unreasonable advantage of consumers’ general lack of understanding of the requirements, which incapacitates their ability to meaningfully consent,” the paper said. 

These restrictive provisions may give clear advantages to corporations, including potentially reducing their costs and increasing their profits, but the removal of consumer rights in the fine print leads to no additional benefits and promises only harm for consumers, the report said. 

Standard form contracts may exist to serve broad economic efficiency in the market, but the worst provisions among them deserve the highest scrutiny and should be banned. In certain circumstances where prohibition is not reasonable or fair to consumers, the terms should, at the minimum, be presumed to be unfair or deceptive. 

NACA also invites the public to share other fine print traps in consumer contracts that belong in this hall of shame. The report is available here.