February 2, 2015

Most Online Shoppers Don't Read the Fine Print, Says FindLaw.com Survey

E-Commerce Websites Can Require Shoppers to Waive Their Legal Rights

EAGAN, Minn. – Today’s online shoppers aren’t bothering to read the fine print when they shop, and could be giving many of their legal rights if something goes wrong. That’s the finding of a new survey from FindLaw.com, the most popular legal information website. 

The majority of online shoppers – 54 percent – say they either quickly skim or ignore any user agreements, terms of service, or other legal language that are agreeing to.

  • Read every word and understand it thoroughly 22%
  • Read most agreements and try to understand most of it 24%
  • Quickly read or skim it 34%
  • Ignore it and don’t read it at all 20%

Many e-commerce websites have terms & conditions that limit a customer’s ability to sue in the event of a dispute. Customers are instead required to use arbitration. Some attempts to sue websites – either through individual or class-action lawsuits – have been dismissed by the courts because the customer agreed to the website’s conditions.

“Most people don’t realize that they are often giving away some,of  their legal rights when they click ‘Agree,’” said Stephanie Rahlfs, attorney-editor at FindLaw.com. “Many websites require that customers scroll through and review legal language and click a button stating that they agree with the terms before completing their purchase. But that’s largely meaningless if the person doesn’t actually read the agreement. Courts have tended to uphold such agreements whether the person actually read them or not, leaving little or no resource for filing a suit in the event of a dispute.”

The numbers are similar to results from the last time FindLaw.com conducted this survey in 2011, even though online shopping has exploded during the same time frame from $200 billion to $300 billion. But despite buying and spending more, online shoppers have not learned to pay more attention to what they’re agreeing to when they buy.

Free information on consumer protection while online shopping can be found at http://consumer.findlaw.com/consumer-transactions/problems-with-online-shopping.html

The FindLaw.com survey was conducted using a demographically balanced survey of 1000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.

FindLaw, part of Thomson Reuters, is a leading provider of business development solutions for small law firms. Through its team of legal marketing experts, FindLaw drives the industry by delivering a comprehensive portfolio of proven online and offline marketing solutions designed to connect law firms with targeted prospective clients. FindLaw is also home to the largest online directory of lawyers and FindLaw.com (www.FindLaw.com), the most popular legal website with more than six million people visiting each month for free information about a legal topic, to solve a legal problem or to find a lawyer.

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Alex Cook 
Tel: +1 651 687 6319
Email: alex.cook@thomsonreuters.com