Legal Operations » From Surrendering Souls to Rogue Vegetable Gardens, Looking at Bizarre and Overlooked Terms in Everyday Contracts

From Surrendering Souls to Rogue Vegetable Gardens, Looking at Bizarre and Overlooked Terms in Everyday Contracts

By David Parks

alert! hidden terms on contract concept

David Parks manages Contract Logix's overall marketing strategy and initiatives including product marketing, demand gen, digital, content, and public relations. Parks has over two decades of experience working with Ciena, Progress, Lucent, Cascade Communications and Yankee Group.

December 26, 2023

As legal practitioners and suppliers of goods and services to the legal industry, it’s very easy for us to forget that understanding – and even reading – terms and conditions is not necessarily the norm. It’s safe to assume that many American consumers rapidly click through and consent to legal terms and services conditions without ever reading them.

Hippo Leasing examined terms and conditions related to purchasing and leasing cars and found that reading Volkswagen’s legal documentation would take 7 hours and 6 minutes. That is nearly the same amount of time it takes to read Shakespeare’s Hamlet- twice. Even worse? They found that tech legal documents are 50% longer than those from car manufacturers.

Contract Logix scoured through some of the most common legal agreements you’ll come across in your lifetime, and we’ve handpicked some of the weirdest, scariest, and most hidden terms you’ll agree to from high school to retirement.

Some of the oddest findings in the data include:

  • Nissan’s privacy clause which gives the company permission to track and collect sexual activity, medical diagnoses and genetic data for targeted ads
  • UK retailer Gamestation temporarily changed its terms and conditions (T&C) to include a clause stating that users who accept the T&C would surrender their immortal soul to the company
  • Airlines’ “customers of size” policies requiring that you pay an additional fee to have a second seat or denying service because of what you’re wearing
  • Contract phrases that waive the right to a jury trial or class-action lawsuit
  • Homeowners association drones patrolling homeowners’ property for rogue vegetable gardens and the “wrong shade of eggshell” cream
  • Tiktok using cookies and pixels to track online activity even when they don’t have the app

While some of these may seem silly, they do raise the importance of helping our clients and customers understand the value of contract data and the risk involved in signing a legal document without understanding the terms and conditions. A general rule is to encourage others to read the fine print and understand that if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.

Contracts at every stage of life

We encounter terms and conditions at every stage of our lives. The teen years will likely be the first time consumers are asked to sign documents acknowledging consent. But these often are confusing social media privacy terms and conditions with language teenagers may not understand. Consumers in their forties may be managing renting, buying, selling, or improving their living spaces and dealing with related contract requirements. The 50+ set are facing all the terms and conditions that come with planning for retirement.

Now is the time of year to review what we’ve signed in our personal lives, sometimes unknowingly. Review and update privacy settings across any social media and financial accounts as well as on your devices, look at life insurance and beneficiaries, and put new limits on the amount of data external companies collect about you, including using privacy- protecting browser extensions, updating browser’s privacy settings, and using more private browsers. Look for any confusing language and make sure you understand what words like “subject to the following terms” or “arbitration” or indemnify” mean in the context of which you are signing.

Understanding T&C agreements is more important than ever. The implications of ignoring the devil in the details can be significant.

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