Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

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Law & Economics Working Papers


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 the eliminate boilerplate arbitration clauses, warranty disclaimers, or data collection) would hurt consumers in an unintended but potentially costly way.



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