Consumer Contracting in the Smartphone Era: New Challenges, An Old Conundrum

23 Pages Posted: 25 May 2023 Last revised: 21 Jul 2023

See all articles by Tim Samples

Tim Samples

University of Georgia - Terry College of Business

Date Written: July 21, 2023


Smartphones have proven an exceptionally transformational technology. More than most innovations, smartphones have altered the human experience. Smartphones created the conditions for trillion-dollar digital marketplaces, like the AppStore and GooglePlay, which fostered the rise of digital platforms. Transacting with consumers by the billions, the largest platforms mediate unprecedented swaths of human activity. They now facilitate everything from yard sales to bank runs. Bringing computing closer to the human body set the stage for intimate surveillance and the attention economy. The sum total of these consequences runs far and wide—upending social and cultural norms, disrupting political systems, and even rewiring mental health and human neurology.

Smartphones also fundamentally altered the consumer contracting environment. This chapter examines that transformation, highlighting emerging issues in the smartphone era of consumer contracting. Among those issues are unprecedented scale, data sensitivities, linguistic difficulties, and fundamental asymmetries. Consumer contracting trends initiated during the Industrial Revolution have been amplified with fast-paced technological transformations. Smartphones and their attendant consequences have deepened and accelerated old conundrums in consumer contracting—while also opening new ones. The net result: a further decoupling of consumer reality and contract law.

Keywords: digital platforms, TOUs, smartphones, law and technology

Suggested Citation

Samples, Tim, Consumer Contracting in the Smartphone Era: New Challenges, An Old Conundrum (July 21, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Tim Samples (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - Terry College of Business ( email )

A425 Moore-Rooker Hall
Athens, GA GA 30602-6269
United States


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