The Payment System Protecting Consumers

Credit cards have often added value and protection to the consumer by way of zero liability features for fraudulent card use and insurance on items purchased using a credit card. Could a payment system provide consumers protection from the myriad End User License Agreements (EULA’s) seller’s demand we accept (especially in the internet age where we typically check the “I Agree” box without actually reading the agreement or terms of service which may run on for thousands of words)?

As an excellent post recently on the Freakonomics blog points out, when using the web, there is virtually no way to bargain or counter offer when it comes to accepting terms of service. The author suggests that the payment system could be used to protect consumers from certain terms that, for practical reasons, cannot be negotiated:

It would be reasonable for a payment system, such as PayPal or AmEx or Citibank Visa, to create an anti-EULA form on behalf of its clients. For example, Google Checkout could require that a condition of accepting payment through their system is that sellers agree to some reasonable pro-consumer terms. If Jack then paid with Google Checkout, he would be protected by Google’s form.

Source: Freakonomics Blog / New York Times

Of course, similar protections could be provided by credit cards (for example, through their agreements and terms fo service with merchants), and even checks/cheques where something like the following could be printed on the front or back of the check/cheque:

READ CAREFULLY. By accepting this check, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (”BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.

Source: Basically the exact same boilerplate message from ReasonableAgreement.org.

Come to think of it, why not start putting this on your checks today?!? (Disclaimer: for all I know, there are rules about what you can write on the front or back of a check, so don’t just do this because I think it’s a neat idea. I am not advocating anyone do this, I am in fact posing the question - is there a reason why one could not put this on a check?)

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