March 9, 2018
***National Consumer Protection Week Consumer Alert***
Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt encourages consumers purchasing goods or services to be mindful of potential scams and to make sure they understand the obligations they are agreeing to and the benefits they are receiving.
Many contracts for consumer goods or services can be enforceable whether they are oral or written. They can include goods and services such as Internet and television services, new and used cars, security alarm services, timeshares, residential services and others. Oral contracts are often made over the phone. Consumers should be aware that unscrupulous companies and scammers have been known to use recordings of consumers saying “yes” as proof of agreement to terms that were not disclosed to the consumer by altering the recording. When asked to say “yes” to verbally disclosed terms, consumers are encouraged to instead restate the terms. For example, “I agree to allow you to make a one-time charge of $10 to my credit card.”
Under certain conditions, an oral contract is not enforceable and must be in writing and “subscribed” to by the person it is enforced against. These conditions include when contracts last more than one year as laid out by the contract’s terms, when a promise is made to loan money or extend credit, when a promise is made to sell an interest in real estate, or when a promise is made to pay the debt of another. An oral contract is enforceable in most other situations.
“Failing to read a contract or to understand the terms does not mean the contract is unenforceable,” said Laxalt. “It is critical that consumers ask questions, read any terms thoroughly, and understand what they are getting into before making a hasty decision.”
The Office of the Nevada Attorney General encourages consumers to take the time to read any written contract they are asked to sign or enter into as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to understand exactly what service or goods the consumer is entitled to under the contract such as: leasing or renting property versus purchasing title out-right, buying a membership, or receiving an interest in real estate. Consumers should be suspicious any time a merchant pressures a consumer to sign or enter into a contract without reading it first.
When reading a contract, look for terms about how long the contract lasts, whether the price for the goods or services will change over time, whether there is an early termination fee, whether there are any other necessary costs other than the price quoted, and whether there is a time period to change your mind without penalty. If there is a written contract, consumers cannot rely on any verbal assurances unless those assurances are also put in writing. Consumers are encouraged to ask to view where in the contract those verbal promises appear or to ask for them to be written into the contract. Consider comparison shopping or having an attorney look over the terms of a contract before agreeing to any contract for big ticket items. Do not be afraid of saying no if you are not sure about any terms.
If a consumer changes his or her mind during any cancelation period, be sure to follow the instructions in the contract, put it in writing and send the request for cancellation to the provided address by certified mail. This must be done before the cancelation period ends—verbal extensions of time should not be relied upon. If consumers feel misrepresentations were made in a contract they agreed to, a private attorney may be able to assist. Consumers may also file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada Attorney General here.