Errors of omission: 3 tips on how to avoid a disclosure scam

They say the devil is in the details. Moyosore Otepola would probably agree.

She recently booked a hotel reservation in Chicago through an airline website. “I found a better deal and decided to cancel the reservation,” she says. But when Otepola phoned the hotel to cancel, a representative delivered some bad news: the reservation couldn’t be changed. Check the terms of her reservation, the employee scolded.

Her airline had failed to mention that little detail.

So it goes everywhere. Consumers are ripped off because a business failed to mention something really important. The problem is pervasive. The Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on Internet search engines that failed to distinguish between an organic search result and an ad. If your company got one of these letters, you’re probably part of the problem.

The government tries to regulate disclosure on a smaller scale, too. A few years ago, it published guidelines for bloggers who endorsed products. The requirements are still thought to be inadequate. For example, some travel loyalty blogs are little more than cut-and-paste announcements from credit card companies with affiliate links, and no meaningful disclosure that the blogger is being paid a commission for each sign-up. These affiliate-revenue mills, I’m told, are coming under the FTC’s crosshairs soon.

How do you avoid being scammed by a company’s lack of disclosure? Here are a few tips:

Always assume the minimum disclosure. Why would any business prominently tell you of any important terms that might affect your purchase? Whether you’re buying cigarettes and the tobacco company is trying to make the warning label “blend” with the rest of the box, or booking a hotel room online, it’s almost always in the company’s best interests to downplay the fine print. Otepola learned that the hard way. After all, the specifics could have killed the deal. If I told you I’d get $200 if you signed up for a credit card through a link on my site, would you still believe my full-throated endorsement of the card? Maybe. But probably not.

Check the fine print for details. At the very least, most reputable companies disclose all the relevant restrictions in the fine print. But even then, it can be hard to understand what it all means. The average “terms of service” agreement is written by lawyers who have a unique gift of making simple ideas look like gibberish. So seeing them is one thing — understanding the fine print is quite another. If you have questions, make sure you ask a company representative, and if possible, get the answer in writing.

Give the content a little sniff test. Phrases like, “Cancel any time for any reason,” or “Best credit card offer EVER!” are a pretty good sign that there’s more going on under the hood. Is there something the company is conveniently leaving out of the advertising? Chances are, if it looks too good to be true, it is. Reality check: You may never find out about the hidden terms or agenda because you actually use the hotel room as intended and you like the credit card. But wouldn’t you want to know everything there is to know before you buy? Thought so.

By the way, Otepola’s story had a happy ending. She’s working her way through the grievance process with her hotel and airline, and it refunded her money. But it doesn’t have to get that far for you. Be a skeptic. Look for the mouse-print in every offer. Save a copy of your terms before you make a purchase, if necessary. Assume that the important details will be buried.

It’ll keep you from becoming a victim.

Should the government require more disclosure for purchase terms?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    This may sound strange coming from me, but in general, I’m a strong proponent of disclosures so consumers can make an informed decision, even if its imprudent.

  • TonyA_says

    Ever read the Fare Rules before you bought your airline ticket? I bet at least 99% don’t, yet the bulk get to their destinations without a hitch. They probably all thought they made an informed decision until they have a problem. That is when the blame game starts.

  • EdB

    I’m all for disclosures, but they should be in simple English. I shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to explain to me the T&Cs of a simple purchase.

  • John Baker

    I think the biggest issue is that consumers as a whole, and I’m guilty of this too, don’t take the time to read any of the print much less the fine print.

    Seriously, when was the last time you actually read a EULA (that would be the thing you agree too when you buy software) instead of just clicking “I Agree”? I know that I haven’t personally read the 30+ pages associated with my itunes account or my MS Office suite. It reminds me of a UK software company that updated their EULA to require that the purchasing party give them their first born (I can’t find the link so I’m doing this from memory). Hundreds of people agreed to the EULA that day. Note: the company waived the provision the next day.

    So the next time that you click that you agree, maybe you should read what you agree too or risk something like this.

  • Richard

    Come on, if I need a lawyer every time I make a simple purchase to avoid getting screwed in case of a problem, that means to me that something is screwed up in the system.

    Are you really telling me that I should read the complete purchase agreement (which often is not a purchase agreement but a license to use) before buying.

    What does one do when traveling outside of the US, it’s not even a language problem, European jurisprudence is very different from American. Libel laws in the UK for example.

    HEY, GET REASONABLE or how about lending me (interest free) enough time to go to law school.

  • John Baker

    Actually Tort Reform in the US would fix a lot of these things … You don’t see or have half these issues in the Europe and the UK because of the different tort system but that’s a discussion for another time…

    And yes … you should read what you are agreeing too or waive your right to complain later..

  • Richard

    Ah that old panacea tort reform. That won’t help the majority of people on this site getting screwed by unreadable contracts, for which they don’t have a law school education to understand and that are written by lawyers with that very point in mind.

    I got screwed in France for wanting canceling by cable subscription after they raised my rates and wanted to charge me for the repair of their cable box. In order to keep the the debt collectors away I had to use the French equivalent of small claims court. I WON, plus a small amount for expenses.

    I’m not the only one that has had such problems in France. Google ” xxx intrum justitia”, xxx= O0range, Free, Bouygues, Numericable, SFR (the French ISP’s) and where intrum justitia is the debt collection agency.

    The main problem here is also that old PANACEA, tort reform, in this case the lack of class action jurisprudence.

  • SoBeSparky

    Don’t like the poll question because they are not equivalents. Regulation is a much bigger area than just disclosure. I don’t want tons more regulations, but on the other hand, we always need full disclosure.

  • Nigel Appleby

    When I was still working we used to say that the larg print gives, the small print takes away and there’s a heck of a lot more small print. This was applicable to insurance policy wordings but it applies to most transactions these days.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    True. But without disclosure there is no possibility of making an informed decision. Think of the places rife with “fraud”, credit purchases, fast food nutrition, etc.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    And not in 3pt grey type on a white background.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Tort reform? We’re talking about contracts, 2 separate and unrelated issue. The legal and social issue is consumer protection.

  • EdB

    But with full disclosure that is all in legalese, I think the average consumer still wouldn’t be able to make an informed decision. :D

  • John Baker

    @carverclarkfarrow:disqus You’re honestly telling me that you don’t think the reason we have 30 page EULAs and T&Cs that go for days isn’t litigation? One drives the other.

  • Michael__K

    You don’t see or have half these issues in the Europe and the UK because of the different tort system but that’s a discussion for another time

    Are you aware of any systematic/scientific analysis to that effect? Because I haven’t noticed that Europe or UK terms are generally any simpler.

    Just for kicks, I compared the contract’s of carriage of Spirit Airlines vs. Ryanair. In terms of page count, you might think Ryanair has simpler terms (17 pages vs. 44 pages). But you’d be completely wrong — that’s all because of font size and whitespace. If you copy+paste the text in each case into, you get:

    36,185 Characters
    4,957 Words
    323 Sentences
    524 Paragraphs
    16 Avg. Sentence Length

    95,545 Characters
    15,914 Words
    481 Sentences
    621 Paragraphs
    34 Avg. Sentence Length

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    In consumer law, disclosure laws tend to be pretty robust. We’re talking about prominently displaying things like interest rates, prices, “As is” sales, in plain language.

    When was the last time that you were confused as to which credit card carried the higher interest rate? Or which cereal had more calories?

    In areas where disclosure laws are new, it takes time for them to catch up with the market.

  • EdB

    You think the disclosure (terms and conditions) on airline tickets are simple enough for the average person to really understand it all? I don’t think disclosure laws are new to the airline industry.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    I’m not taking a position one way or the other on tort reform, but you’re conflating two separate issues. Litigation encompasses many areas of law, contracts, torts, family law, etc.

    Tort reform is primarily about personal injuries. I get burned when I spill McDonald’s coffee that is too hot, or my doctor operates on my left hand instead of my right foot. Tot reform relates to whether I can recover for my injuries, what evidence is admissible in court, and are there any limitations on that recovery, e.g.monetary limits on non-economic damages (pain and suffering)

    What we’re talking here about is consumer contracts. A 30 page EULA for MS Windows 8, is completely unrelated to the Microsoft’s tort liability. If you check out a consumer contract, say your credit card or bank account disclosure, you will see scant mention of tort liability as its nominally relevant at best.

  • TonyA_says

    “I found a better deal and decided to cancel the reservation”.

    There you go. Businesses are just adopting to bottom fishers like you. Keep on searching and you might find a real cheap deal – a total scam. Sometimes common sense is more important than all those disclosure statements no one cares to read anyway. Most people do not care to read beyond the first page of google. That’s why you can find most of the scams on that page, IMO.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What is your basis for that statement that disclosure laws are not new to the industry?

    I have not done any legal analysis but the evidence suggests the opposite. I would opine that an airline contract is easily the most confusing, least friendly, most convoluted, consumer contract that the average person encounters.

    Its only been in the last few years that any meaning change to airline disclosures have come about, e.g. displaying full fares inclusive of all mandatory fees and taxes. Yet given that ancillary services that many infrequent travelers expect such as food, reserved seats, etc. are not included, one might argue that the disclosure laws for airlines are still in their infancy.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    She booked a reservation and found a cheaper price later and wanted the cheaper price. And this is bad how??. Its not like she wasted some TA’s time and maybe cost them a commission. If I book a refundable reservationl, and I find a cheaper price for the same reservation, there is no good reason for me to keep the original reservation.

    Now, if I book a nonrefundable rate, that’s a different story.

    Her only mistake was that she should have booked directly with the hotel, which, in my experience, tends to be better about making disclosures, than a third party website.

  • Michael__K

    With some airlines (for example, US Airways) and I believe some OTA’s, you ***CAN’T*** see the fare rules until AFTER you’ve already bought your ticket.

    You have to wait for the confirmation email and then review your reservation and then if you don’t like the fare rules you have to request a refund. That should be outlawed IMO.

    Also, the Fare Rules are often undecipherable to lay people without expertise — there ought to be a version with full English words available that is readable by lay people. They could still show the abridged version with all the abbreviations for the experts who prefer the current format.

  • Fishplate

    4 months before someone claimed the $1000 reward listed in the EULA.

  • Michael__K

    Reading all the gory terms is great but unfortunately even that time consuming task is not good enough.

    Just witness yesterday’s case (Ms. Demmerle’s Priceline booking) and today’s case (Ms.Otepola’s hotel reservation). The vendors can and do impose additional terms that are not disclosed until AFTER payment. And the majority of Chris’ readers apparently either don’t necessarily think that’s wrong or worthy of mediation, or they don’t bother to sweat the details before arriving at an opinion.

  • EdB

    Did airlines just have to start disclosing these terms aftet the industry has been around for how long? I’m sure the very first airline ticket sold had to disclose the terms and conditions. And after all this time, the disclosure still hasn’t caught up to the market?

  • EdB

    Like terms and conditions printed on the back of movie/concert/etc tickets you don’t know about until after the purchase.

  • bodega3

    No her mistake was booking something without knowing the cancellation policy. Stupid is as stupid does!

    I am not a betting person, but I would put money down on this one, as I am pretty sure the information was there, and the OP just didn’t take the time to read the rules.

  • LTMG

    There are likely enough regulations. Enforcement, investigation, and Draconian punishments will get the attention of those that ignore regulations. In the case of Ms. Otepola, a $500,000 fine would certainly get the non-compliant firm’s attention.

  • emanon256

    Or dry cleaners.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Up until recently airlines didn’t disclose the full price of a ticket until you were almost ready to buy. Tickets were quoted without taxes and fees. Airlines also made it hard to determine the refundability of tickets. By comparison, your credit card statement is a million times easier to read.

    Disclosure laws don”t mean that the terms are merely somewhere on the page, but it also mean prominent, unambiguous, certain size, emphasized, etc.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Maybe some intrepid person out there will re-create the OP’s situation and see if the rules were or were not available before she pressed the confirmation button or its equivalent and report back to us. I, for one, have been well educated by you and other folks on this blog over the years, and would never dream of clicking a hotel reservation without knowing the terms under which I had booked it. If the terms weren’t there, I wouldn’t agree to the reservation. I guess that’s the entire point of today’s article, right?

  • EdB

    Yes, they didn’t disclose the full price, but they were required to disclose the terms and condition and those have not gotten any better as time has past.

  • Dick_Hoel

    Don’t forget that this government that you speak of is responsible for the TSA and all the fun that comes with it. Do you really think the government will do a good job with forcing disclosure or regulating other aspects of businesses?

  • bodega3

    I guess that would depend on where you are pricing an itinerary. In the GDS I get the full price as soon as I book the segments, no ending of a reservation or name required to get this.

  • emanon256

    I want to re-create it, but the article didn’t say which airlines website.

    What always baffles me is why people would buy a hotel reservation from an airline. In my mind, that’s like going to a hardware store to get a sandwich. You are going to be sorely disappointed with that sandwich. I will buy both an airline ticket and a hotel reservation with a travel agent. But I won’t ever trust an airline to sell me a hotel. Going to the vendor directly yields the best on-lien results with the fewest catches.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I not only check the refund policy but also the “resort fees” as well before clicking on buy. Most hotels have some kind of non-refund policy at one point (for example, until the morning before check-in) which are fair, but I want to know ahead of time.

    I use the old fashioned approach: I call the front desk. Not the 800 number. I look up the hotel on whitepages and find their front desk and talk to the clerks who print out the bills (it helps to know them on a first name basis before I come in.) It’s no guarantee they can’t lie or be wrong, of course, but at least they speak my language. I can also find out about room availability, whether there’s a biker convention the week I’m visiting, etc.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    In the case of the TSA, they are now a fully government enterprise in charge of regulating itself. With multiple layers of government oversight, it makes it harder for the cronies to pay off all the regulators.

    The best thing for the TSA would be to re-privatize it.

  • emanon256

    So I did some sleuthing, and while I am sure many airlines will let you book hotels in some fashion or another, the only quick and easy one was South West. They very blatantly disclose the policy. I attached a screen shot. It says “Payment Due Now” and when I click on “Cancel Policy” it pops up. Not sure if the is the OPs airline. I hope @ChrisElliott tells is.

    Now, can you help me figure out why my MIL just booked flights to Denver on South West and paid ~$600 to connect in PHX, both ways (coming from the east coast), while it would have cost her ~$400 to take non-stop flights both ways?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m picking a fight, but here goes: I think that software agreements
    should be unenforceable. They aren’t contracts. It’s like if you buy a
    movie ticket and on the back it says: “We can take your children and
    harvest their organs”, then it’s probably not going to be legal (I’m
    scared to think it may be possible). There’s a funny episode of South
    Park that addresses this: Cent-iPad.

    If I buy a product, whether a
    toaster oven or a Brittany Spears CD, I should have the right to do
    whatever I like with it provided it’s for my private use. The DMCA was
    big business cronyism at its worst and should be repealed.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I was also thinking that it makes sense for an airline website to have a non-refund policy. That’s largely the policy with their economy tickets, yes?

  • bodega3

    My understanding of hotel, car, cruise and packages through the carrier’s website is that the link is to a company that sells these, not the carrier. United Vacations isn’t operated by United Airlines, nor is Southwest Vacations. Unless you are clicking to say Hertz’s website or to Hilton’s website, you are booking through a 3rd party site.

  • Michael__K

    I would be fairly surprised if any airline or OTA systematically doesn’t show cancellation policies for any hotel reservations.

    I would not be surprised if the disclosure was wrong or unavailable for a specific hotel or for a specific atypical entry point or user scenario.

    I once booked on Expedia and the T&C’s I saw on Expedia were wrong according to the hotel.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Valid point. Indeed, it’s worth considering that if you book a trip from an airline’s website you might be adding third party complications similar to going through Orbitz…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. That’s why I say that airline disclosures are still in the infancy as opposed to other areas of business in which the disclosures are more in line with the modern disclosure paradigm.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Alas, GDS is not a consumer tool, but something for professionals.

  • bodega3

    But it is available to consumers if they call a travel consultant and it is so much faster to get pricing on a GDS than anywhere else!

  • Daddydo

    You should never have to look very hard to find out the “down” side of a reservation. All cancellations should be part of original confirmations and comments. They should not be hidden in the “small” print! My clients never lay out 1 red cent until they know what they have potentially to lose.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s not really available to consumers if they need an intermediary to use it.

  • TonyA_says

    I have to agree with EdB here :)
    If you read the fare rules and can understand half of it, you need to work for the department of the airlines that wrote it.
    They are so hard to understand that even travel agents give up and just call their contacts (who I also believe don’t read the rules) for help in interpreting these things.

  • EdB

    We’re talking two different things here. Airlines purposely hid price information or made it difficult to find. The T&Cs have been there all along. However, the way they are written, it would be hard to assume the common consumer could understand it. This is what I was pointing out in my first reply to you. If the information is written in such a way the average person cannot understand it, is that really an informed decision?

  • TonyA_says

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I have always understood that the fare rules we humans read were actually written so they can be automated (for distribution to GDS).

    So there will never be rules written only for human beings as far as I know since the interpretation can differ.

  • TonyA_says

    One possibility is with AA Flight and Hotel Booking

    When people buy a bundle like this, they are really buying a prepaid (vacation) package. The terms prepaid and refund do not go together :)

  • emanon256

    I run from pre-paid vacation packages. An agent can put together a much better more customized vacation for me and much of it can be refunded or changed, but its much less likely to be subject to change without notice. I also get what I want that way, instead of getting what the package includes which may not be what I want.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, this is not personally directed to you, but don’t you agree many of the legalese written on T&Cs that mere mortals cannot understand were written by lawyers? So tell me, why do you guys write stuff that only you guys can understand?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Software contracts work because they generally give you the right to return the product for a full refund if you don’t want to accept the license agreement

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Its a good question. The answer is twofold
    The good part is for specificity. Ambiguous drafting leads to litigation
    The bad part is that if you don’t understand it, you probably will comply with the main points.
    There is a push towards easier to understand language in consumer contracts.

  • bodega3

    I disagree. We are one avenue, just like the internet or calling the carrier directly. What we can do, that the internet can’t do, nor the carrier, is read all carriers fare rules on one screen, in one place.

  • California_Dave

    We as consumers have changed alot. We are always looking for something cheaper and sometimes going with a cheaper option means doing business with some third-party we don’t know just to save a buck. When something goes wrong, we want government to step in and rescue us. We don’t take responsibility for our own actions. When the OP booked her hotel res thru the airline site, she was entering into a contract with that company (not the airline or the hotel), which was why when she called the hotel to cancel her res, they probably told her she had to cancel thru the party she booked with and comply with their terms. The adage “The cheap becomes the expensive” applies here. Let the buyer beware. If you are not sure who you are entering into a contract with or their terms, don’t buy from them. That said, I do think it is the responsibility of government to ensure consumer are provided accurate information in order to make informed decisions, not to come up with laws to protect us from every stupid choice we could possibly make. Put your trust in a company and if they burn you, learn from it, don’t do business with them again, and tell everyone you know.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    booked a domestic Australian ticket & got email confimration & apart from flight info on page 1, had another 5 pages of microprint (must have been 6 point) that I couldn’t read without a magnifying glass.
    What’s the problem ? Lawyers esp US ones.
    The more regulation, the more of this sort of rubbish.
    If everything was non-refundable, it would life much easier, ie take out insurance or take a chance.

  • bodega3

    All airfares on all scheduled airlines have rules and the rules are listed in a certain order. Domestic aren’t as long as international. What riveting reading! It has gotten worst over the past few years with all the new information they have to put in them. It can make your eyes cross!

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t really think disclosures matter in this situation. The fine print and details etc only have value if you have options. Your a traveler in an unknown city, if you had friends or relatives to stay with, you would do that. We stay in hotels and motels because we don’t want to sleep in boxes or the back seat of our rental cars. If you give someone money in advance, your buying something and you shouldn’t plan or expect to get your money back.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So, I’m totally confused as to your point. So I’ll reiterate mine and perhaps you can tell me what you’re disagreeing with as they points seem fully in alignment with each other.

    1. I’m a proponent of disclosure laws;

    2. Crappy disclosure is better than no disclosure. If there is no disclosure, there is no possibility of making an informed decision. If there is disclosure, even if its crappy, I can perhaps call TonyA or Bodega or some other professional for assistance;

    3. Airline disclosures laws are in their infancy compared with many other consumer oriented businesses.

    Which point are you disagreeing with?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    How is GDS a consumer tool? Correct me if I’m wrong. Can I, Carver, get an account to use GDS. Would I be able to use it without training. Does any layperson use GDS directly?

    By definition, it’s a tool for travel professionals to use to serve their clients. Much like MLS used to be only for real estate agents, Bloomberg financial data and terminals used to only be to financial professionals. There are certain legal databases that are only sold to licensed private investigators and attorneys. I had to show my license before the rep would take my money

    Perhaps its a difference in definition. I define a consumer tool as a piece of machinery, a software programs, etc. designed to be used directly by general public. In any industry there are items which anyone can use, and their are items which are only available to members of that profession.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Not everyone is travel savvy. Besides, if you are included to buy from a third party, say Expedia, Orbitz, etc., why not

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    If you assume that everything is non-refundable then you’re life will be easier. Personally, I’ll pass on that suggestion.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t understand that.
    I have traveled to many unknown cities. Different hotels have different rules. I picked the one that was best for me with rules that I was willing to live with. I don’t understand what you are trying to get at.

  • EdB

    1 – I agree

    2 – If the disclosure is written in a way a reasonable person cannot understand without having to consult a professional for assistance, how can it be an informed decision?

    3 – My comment was about disclosures in general. The airline’s T&Cs were just an example. But as to your statement, airlines have been around long enough to have had time to simplify their current terms & conditions into simple english that a reasonable person could understand without professional help (and as TonyA mentioned, even those professionals don’t always understand them) yet have not done so. Other businesses who have not been around as long have been able to do so. Saying they are in an infancy period because regulations have just been passed is not valid in my view. They have had years to do it right, but haven’t. The new disclosure laws themselves are in an infancy, but disclosure laws in general have been around for awhile. So to summarize this point, yes the law is in the infancy, but the airline’s disclosure itself is not.

    Fare disclosure and T&C disclosure are two different things in my view, but with similar aspects. Fare tells you how much and T&C tells how it can be used.

  • Michael__K

    I think those crappy airline Fare Rule disclosures didn’t seem as bad 15 years ago when (a) airlines were much more flexible about bending rules as part of good customer service and (b) everyone was buying tickets either by phone or in person from an airline ticket office or travel agent (with the airline paying the commission).

    If you booked by phone, you didn’t see the Fare Rule gobbledygook, but an agent would recite the essentials and you could ask questions and get answers in plain English (and have more confidence in the accuracy of the response than today).

    If you booked in person, you might notice the Fare Rule gobbledygook, but you were face-to-face with an expert who could answer questions free of charge in plain English.

    So I think I sort of agree with both you and Carver — the Fare Rule disclosures have always stunk, but the online do-it-yourself age is in its relative infancy, and the law hasn’t quite caught up with that.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    So if the movie theater wants to harvest your childrens’ organs as stated on the back of the ticket, that works because you could have just asked for a refund?

    OK, I know that’s a ridiculous example (since harvesting live children’s organs is illegal outright, for now) but my point is that under traditional contract law this is silly. A better example would be those Ef-U agreements on the back of parking garage tickets. Much of the time, they make ridiculous demands that are unenforceable (if their employee stands by watching while a crook breaks into your car and doesn’t call anyone it doesn’t matter what the back of the parking garage ticket says, they can be sued).

    The software contracts “work” because some oligarchs bribed and kicked back to various senators and congressmen to pass laws allowing ridiculous copyright schemes such as DMCA. But that’s just the way it is. If I get on a jury to decide a case such as this, they better have a nice kickback package available for me…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So, a little information on contract law. This is what is known as a unilateral contract. That means, by an action, you are binding yourself to the contract. It is not a new thing, nor is it peculiar to intellectual property.

    For example, in old style gas stations, the ones where you pumped gas then paid for it inside, the act of pumping gas bound you to the contract. Similarly in the software contract, the act of paying combined with opening the box, binds you to the contract.

    With regards to the parking lot, it depends on the nature of the relationship. If it’s an open air, self parking garage, then the parking lot owner owes you very little. He could probably pull up a lawn chair and watch the crook break into your car and have no liability. I researched such a case 20 years ago.

    If however, it’s a valet service, then they have liability as a bailment is created.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That is my experience as well. When I realized that I decided not to complete the transaction

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Looks like I got that fight I picked. :-)

    So you’re telling me that if a gas station owner has a contract on the wall of the clerk’s desk that if you pump gas, you agree to a $200 oil change and $20 service fee, that you agreed to that by pumping gas and then going inside? :-)

    And who says I bought the software? It could have been a gift. What if the software was given to me without the “contract” attached? What if it was pre-installed by the previous owner? (You’ll probably say that the law says I still am bound by the agreement, somehow.)

    But yeah, I’m not disputing what the law is on this matter. I’m only pointing out how corrupt it is. If cars were sold like software, then we could go to jail for 20 years for trying to use generic parts instead of factory brand or using a third party repair shop. It’s a pretty sweet deal they got.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    That’s why there are various consumer protection laws to prevent abuses. The only point I was making is that software licenses are not different from other areas of law.

    To answer your question about the software being given, the donor can only give the rights that he or she possess. So you the recipient would still be bound.