On March 25, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit held that a person is not bound by a contract unless it was made clear that you were supposed to actually read it, regardless of whether you read it or not.
This ruling came about when a Mr. Gary Sgouros signed an online contract to receive his credit report from TransUnion. By signing, I mean he clicked “I agree,” like so many of us do now a days. Mr. Sgouros then when to a car dealership in hopes of purchasing a vehicle, credit report score dutifully in hand. Things did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. Upon showing the dealership his credit report, Mr. Sgouros learned that his actual credit score was reporting 100 points lower than that which appeared on his TransUnion report.
Furious, Mr. Sgouros sued TransUnion on behalf of a class of other misinformed and angry consumers. TransUnion subsequently responded by saying that Mr. Sgouros had no grounds to sue based on the arbitration clause Mr. Sgouros had agreed to when he accepted the terms of service on the TransUnion website.
End of story? Not quite. Mr. Sgouros just so happened to be on the right side of the law. Both the district court and the 7th Circuit vehemently rejected TransUnion’s argument, and permitted Mr. Sgouros to continue with his lawsuit against TransUnion. The appeals court held that TransUnion’s website did not actually require Mr. Sgouros, or other clients, to read the arbitration agreement they were signing. Rather, TransUnion’s website, like many others, simply referred to a “service agreement” and made no other mention of there being an arbitration clause. Yes, there was a “Printable Version” box located to the service agreement box, however, clicking that box would bring up a 10 page document, and it was not until page 8 that an arbitration clause was even mentioned.
Thus, the court believed TransUnion’s behavior was deceptive and accordingly, Mr. Sgouros could not be bound by their vague and misleading service agreement.
The opinion, delivered by Judge Diane Wood (a recent contender for the Supreme Court vacancy), stated that TransUnion, and others, would be better off if a very clear prompt showed up explaining that the actual contract is available only via hyperlink. That way, Judge Wood states, TransUnion would be in compliance with Illinois’s requirements of “reasonable notice.” Indeed, Judge Wood’s opinion provides some very pertinent advice not only to TransUnion, but to other similarly situated companies who rely heavily on consumers accepting the terms of online agreements.
The crux of it, however, remains up in the air – many consumers simply do not take the time to click and read the actual contract, no matter how clear the prompt is. It is almost too easy to click “I agree” and consequently, people do so blindly and in a hurry to move forward with whatever their purpose is for attending the website. New law will surely surface as the issues continue to come forward, so be a savvy consumer and keep an eye out.
If you or someone you know has suffered from a negative credit report score due to a credit reporting error, do not fret – you have options! At McCarthy Law, we know first-hand how credit reporting errors can damage consumers, be it getting a mortgage, buying a car, obtaining another line of credit, or even renting an apartment! The attorneys at McCarthy Law have successfully defended thousands of consumers against the top credit reporting agencies. Unfortunately, credit report errors happen far too often, but the good news is you don’t have to be a victim forever! Call us TODAY at (855)-976-5777, or visit our website at: https://mccarthylawyer.com/credit-report-errors/. At McCarthy Law we care about your credit score looking good, the way it should.
(For more information on the article: https://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-03-28/when-you-can-t-find-the-fine-print-or-read-it )
Kevin Fallon McCarthy
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