Jackie and Robert Boone went to small claims court to fight a car rental company’s unfair contract. They were paying an extra $25 a day for a loss damage waiver, which was supposed to cover repairs if the car was in an accident.
Instead, they were charged $5,500 because the protection didn’t kick in if the car collided with a stationary object — in their case, a parking lot wall. Read about their victory here.
It’s not easy to launch a legal battle. The couple, who live in England, ended up out of pocket at the end. The company appealed the small claims court win, forcing them to hire a lawyer for the next round. Isn’t there a better way?
Unfair contracts are everywhere. Insurance companies throw in exclusions left and right. Credit card contracts are full of traps and are often amended. But the banks send you only the new clauses without any context to compare them.
Can you cross out the stuff you don’t like and substitute new terms? That may work in big-money deals for cars and homes, but rarely in transactions involving smaller sums.
Better disclosure would help. But the plain language movement is stalled. Company lawyers prefer that you don’t understand what you’re signing.
Robert Boone thinks the answer is for governments to outlaw unfair contracts. While that would be nice, I doubt the business lobbyists would ever allow that to happen.
So, for now, you have to read through the dense legalese, ask questions, shop around and, ultimately, use the legal system to fight everyday injustices.