Blah Blah Blah Sign Here — the Pain and Power of Form Contracts

Andy Spears
2 min readJan 11, 2023

Federal regulator proposes new rules to limit form contracts, protect consumer rights

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is proposing a new rule that would protect consumers who sign non-negotiable form contracts. These types of contracts are typically presented at the point of sale and include “fine print” language that cannot be negotiated. Often, this language limits a consumer’s right to seek redress for nonperformance of the contract or for product failure.

“Some companies seek to censor their customers and strip them of their rights by inserting fine print into non-negotiable contracts,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “The CFPB is proposing a registry of these contract clauses to find out where people are unable to speak up when they’ve been harmed.”

Many companies’ financial products and services require consumers to sign lengthy form contracts. The companies write the form contracts as well as define any choices offered, and consumers cannot negotiate. Some companies slip terms and conditions into their form contracts that try to take away consumer protections, try to limit how consumers exercise their rights, or try to quiet consumer complaints or criticism, and more broadly, the terms and conditions potentially undermine consumer financial protection law. There is often little choice for consumers except to sign these form contracts due both to their market pervasiveness and the critical role the products and services play in people’s daily lives.

The CFPB proposal would keep a registry of the form contract language and would seek to provide guidance to companies using such language. The ultimate goal of CFPB action is to eliminate the most abusive language in form contracts and to provide additional protections to consumers.

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .