Regulation Through Boilerplate: An Apologia
University of Chicago Law School
April 22, 2013
Michigan Law Review 2013, Forthcoming
University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 640
This essay reviews Margaret Jane Radin’s Boilerplate: The Fine Print, Vanishing Rights, And The Rule Of Law (Princeton Press, 2013). It responds to two of the book’s principal complaints against boilerplate consumer contracts: that they modify people’s rights without true agreement to, or even minimal knowledge of, their terms; and that the provisions they unilaterally enact are substantively intolerable. I argue, counter-intuitively, that contracts with long fine prints are no more complex and baffling to consumers than any alternative boilerplate-free templates of contracting. Therefore, there is no alternative universe in which consumers enter simpler contracts better informed of the legal terms. In addition, I argue that any policy that mandates consumer-friendlier arrangements (such as ones that eliminate boilerplate arbitration clauses, warranty disclaimers, or data collection) would hurt consumers in an unintended but potentially costly way.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 24
Date posted: April 23, 2013 ; Last revised: May 11, 2013
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