An Experimental Test of the Effectiveness of Terms & Conditions

Zev J. Eigen

Northwestern University School of Law

October 7, 2013

Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-32

Requiring individuals to consent to “terms & conditions” is the overwhelmingly dominant strategy used to try to curb unauthorized use of products like motion pictures and music. This study is the first to employ a randomized controlled behavioral experiment testing whether this strategy is as effective as other means of achieving this goal. Individuals randomly assigned to either a “terms and condition” (“T&C”) frame or alternative frames (promise-keeping, trust, threat, naked request, and a control) were presented an opportunity to take an online presidential election poll more than once (and receive additional remuneration each time they did), even though they were made aware that they were not authorized to do so. The T&C frame was the least effective at keeping subjects from taking the poll more than once. Asking individuals to promise not to behave in the undesirable way, or signaling trust that they would not behave in the undesirable way were the best frames for curbing unauthorized multiple poll-taking.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: contract, form, adhesive, adhesion, internet, Hollywood, entertainment, end user, EULA, license agreement, experiment, cheating, dishonesty, poll, president, election, consumer, agreement

JEL Classification: K10, K12, K39

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Date posted: October 11, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Eigen, Zev J., An Experimental Test of the Effectiveness of Terms & Conditions (October 7, 2013). Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-32. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2338559 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2338559

Contact Information

Zev J. Eigen (Contact Author)
Northwestern University School of Law ( email )
375 E. Chicago Ave
Unit 1505
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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