Form Contracts – How I hate them

I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with my blog theme, but I need to rant and this seems like a good place to do it.  I am practically shaking as I write this.  I worked in politics for a long time and am so jaded and frustrated with things that it is hard to piss me off, but somehow this did it.  My Grandpa Read would be so proud.

You know those contracts that you have to sign all the time?  The ones that accompany your car rental or your health insurance or the rafting trip you are about to take?  Those make me twitch.  I went to law school and I took my first year of contracts and it is all about how the consumer gets royally screwed over when the form contract he/she has signed goes horribly wrong.  As a young idealist, this stuck with me and I vowed to read all those form contracts in my life to at least know when I was getting screwed and possibly, if I had the guts to flout convention, cross certain parts out and write in my own terms.  I have kept this vow (with the exception of house buying paperwork signing extravaganza which was just impossible to read everything) mostly since then.  Rarely have I had the gumption to actually cross anything out, but sometimes I do.

Alex and I are in the process of buying life insurance at the suggestion of our financial advisor (who rocks by the way, if you need one please let me know!) and it has been an icky process.  The agents are pushy and downright obnoxious and one of them called me several times a day until I told him to knock it off.  We made it through the process of finding the best rate and getting an exam done and I began to fill out the paperwork….oh dear, my lawyer sense got all tingly and I became very anxious.  It was a mess and I could feel my indignation boiling up inside of me.  So I started crossing things out.  I decided to just do the one thing that really made my blood boil, the releases to give them access to my medical records for the next 2-2 ½ years.  Why the fuck do they need access to my medical records for the next 2 ½ years?  They are going to decide in the next month or so whether I am fit to give life insurance to and then do it.  Why the extra time?  So I thought about it and decided that a more than generous amount of time to give them access to my medical records was 6 months.  I felt quite pleased with myself and started going through and crossing things out and writing in “6 months.”  Then into the envelope the paperwork went and I sent them back to the agent.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I get a call from a woman who wanders if I want to proceed with my life insurance application.  I tell her I do and she asks why I have not responded to her e-mail.  We go back and forth over whether or not she has the correct address and then I ask what the problem is.  She informs me that some of my paperwork had been redacted and she needed me to sign fresh copies.  I told her that I had done on purpose and I didn’t want to sign fresh copies.  We went back and forth over that for a bit and she finally said she would have my agent call me.

I just got off the phone with my agent, who could learn some skills in dealing with a pissed off lawyer, who yells at me for awhile telling me that they aren’t going to change the contract just for one person and that ALL the contracts are this way, but refuses to tell me why in the world they need that clause.  She tells me to talk to my financial advisor and he will tell me this is standard (did she miss the part where I told her I don’t want them to have access to my medical records for the next 2 ½ years??)  I ask her to speak with someone who has the authorization to change the contract and she finally says she will do some research and call me back.  I thank her, as politely as possible, and hang up.

So here is the thing that gets to me….In all those cases I read so long ago, the consumer signs the contract and then something goes wrong and the corporate entity tends to get some sort of huge windfall and the consumer just gets screwed.  The court sides with the corporation almost every time saying that the consumer has the right to negotiate the contract and if they don’t, tough toots.  Ok, so I listened to you court, I try to negotiate my contract, and am not doing particularly well at it, even with a small item.  So what happens if I give in, buy the life insurance and then something goes horribly wrong.  Is some court going to tell Alex and Walter that I had the ability to negotiate and so I am stuck with whatever unjust outcome occurs?

One thought on “Form Contracts – How I hate them

  1. I hear ya. It is completely ridiculous and I haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it, either. The terms are the terms, and no one really negotiates. To pretend otherwise is just silly. Sometimes I hate the fact that I have a law degree b/c otherwise I might go through life blissfully ignoring the legalese, whereas now I pay attention to it, yet I am powerless to do anything about it. Maddening.

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