Customer contracts are written, binding agreements that are made between a customer (buyer) and a merchandiser (seller). Laws generally allow these types of contracts to be made, but they may be subject to various restrictions based on consumer protection laws. This is because of the concern that there may be a difference in bargaining power between the seller and buyer. For example, most merchandisers or retailers have much more business knowledge than the average customer.
Customer or consumer contracts can be made for various purposes. For instance, the customer and retailer may enter into an agreement wherein the retailer agrees to sell a certain number of items, and the customer agrcees that they will purchase them at a set time. Or, the contract may have to do with the return or exchange of various items.
Thus, customer contracts can be helpful for both the customer and the seller, as they provide written guidelines for the transaction.
Generally speaking, customers have various “built-in” protections when contracting with a merchandiser. These can include protections regarding:
- The Form of the Contract: Consumer laws often limit customer contracts to certain forms, and specify that the contract must be printed in a certain sized font, with copies issued to the buyer, etc.
- Terms: Laws may limit clauses that are illegal or unreasonable to the customer
- Other clauses: Acceleration clauses or non-litigate clauses may not be allowed in all circumstances, even though these may be a standard part of most business contracts
- “Unreasonableness”: Customer contracts can’t be unreasonable with regards to pricing and other terms. For example, the business owner can’t engage in “price gouging”, or spiking prices high when economic demands make it possible to do so
Thus, customers may wish to have the contract reviewed by a lawyer before they sign it, to ensure that their consumer protection rights aren’t being violated in the contract.
In the event of a violation, the customer may have several remedies available to them under local and state business laws. For example, the customer may be able to obtain a refund, or even a damages award if the breach of contract has resulted in economic losses for them.
In other situations, the customer may request an injunction from the court, especially if the other party has engaged in deceitful or unfair business practices. These remedies will of course depend on the nature of the contract as well as the type of violation involved.
Whether you are the customer or the retailer, it’s important to know your rights if you will be entering into a customer contract. Contract laws can vary widely be region, and can often involve different rights for each party. Thus, you may need to hire a contract lawyer for assistance in drafting, negotiating, and reviewing the contract. Your lawyer can also represent you in court if a lawsuit has been filed in connection with the customer contract.