Are consumer “contracts” contracts? For decades, scholars have decried the use of fine print contracts in conjunction with the sale of consumer goods and services. Yet the use of these documents has only proliferated, with the courts on the whole accepting their authority as contracts and invalidating them only through the invocation of contract law defenses. The American Law Institute has recognized that traditional principles of contract law are applied in a unique enough fashion in consumer transactions to warrant a separate forthcoming Restatement of Consumer Contracts. But is the contract paradigm stretched beyond the breaking point when applied to consumer transactions?
Meeting for six two-hour sessions, this reading group will review basic principles of contract law and then read the leading critiques and defenses of the application of contract law to consumer transactions. We will conclude with a consideration of alternatives for regulating consumer transactions if the contract law model is rejected.
The reading group will meet on the following dates: September 12, September 26, October 10, October 24, November 7, and November 21.