Online Shoppers Are Careless Reading Their Legal Agreements, Says New FindLaw Survey
EAGAN, Minn., Dec. 21, 2011 – As consumers buy more and more products over the Internet, they are not always doing a good job of paying attention to the legal fine print. According to a new survey by FindLaw.com (www.findlaw.com), the most popular legal information website, more than half of people surveyed say they pay little or no attention to legal agreements when shopping online.
Online retailing is an increasingly popular way for consumers to do their shopping, and is expected to hit record levels this year. But online shopping websites usually display detailed terms and conditions regarding subjects such as canceling orders, return of merchandise, resolving disputes and privacy protections for customer information.
According to the FindLaw.com survey, fifty-four percent of Americans say they only quickly read or skim, or completely ignore those legal agreements when they shop online.
18% I scroll or click past it and don’t read it at all 18%
36% I quickly read or skim it
26% I read most agreements and try to make sure I understand most of it
19% I read every word and make sure that I understand it thoroughly
As the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division recently noted, “consumers are increasingly purchasing products and services over the Internet. As those Internet transactions have become more prevalent, so too have legal disputes proliferated over the contractual rights created in cyberspace between buyers and sellers."
“Shopping online is fast and convenient, but many shoppers don’t slow down and take their time to read the fine print,” said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor at FindLaw.com. “Consumers need to understand that clicking on ‘I Agree’ or ‘Complete Purchase’ can constitute a legally binding agreement. Doing so may mean waiving some of your rights, or agreeing to something that you may not fully understand or agree with.
For example, many online retailers require customers to agree to use arbitration to settle certain disputes. This may limit a customer’s ability to seek relief from the courts under those circumstances.”
Additional free information on consumers’ rights, as well as help in finding an attorney experienced in consumer affairs, can be found at the FindLaw Consumer Protection Center at http://public.findlaw.com/consumer/.
The FindLaw survey was conducted using a telephone survey of a demographically balanced group of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.
Note to editors: Full survey results are available upon request.
FindLaw, part of Thomson Reuters, is a leading provider of free intelligent legal information, online marketing and client development services, providing the legal industry and consumers with the knowledge to act. Home to the largest online directory of lawyers that assists consumers in finding an attorney by practice area, FindLaw.com (www.findlaw.com) is the most popular legal website with nearly 4 million consumers visiting each month for free information about a legal topic, to solve a legal problem, or to find a lawyer.
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