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    Can I get out of a contract?

    Date: 09.06.07 | by Judge Tom.

    The laws about contracts and minors vary from state to state.  Because of your age and lack of business experience, you may be allowed to get out of a contract you sign. This is called disaffirming a contract, and it means you may refuse to honor its terms. The law recognizes that some businesses engage in unfair practices. Teenagers and young adults are frequent targets of scam artists and aggressive marketing campaigns.

    To learn what legal protection you have, refer to your state′s laws. Ask your librarian for help, or call your district attorney or attorney general′s office and talk to a member of their consumer protection staff. The office may have a pamphlet to send you regarding your rights as a consumer.


    Photo by Ewen and Donabel (Flickr)

    In the United States, there′s a “Cooling-Off Rule,” also called the “Door-to-Door Sales Rule.” If you buy something that costs more than $25, you have three days to cancel the purchase. The sale must take place in your home or away from the seller′s regular place of business—for example, at a home party, at a restaurant, or in a rented room. The rule doesn′t cover mail or telephone orders, or sales at arts and crafts fairs. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for specifics on how to cancel a sale and deal with any problems.

    If you sign a contract with an adult cosigner, you may be able to disaffirm the contract, but the cosigner remains responsible. Not all contracts you enter into may be disaffirmed. If you′ve obtained products or services and fail to pay for them, the provider may take you to court and might possibly involve your parents. This includes purchases involving food, clothing, lodging, and medical care.

    Other large-ticket items that you′ve contracted for—a car, sports equipment, or stereo—may or may not be disaffirmed.You may be able to return the item without any payment to the store, or you may be required to pay for its use or any damage.


    Photo by Lafa.pixellutions

    A note of caution: Before you make any out-of-the-ordinary purchase or enter into a purchase agreement, take some time to think it through. Discuss your plans with an adult, and carefully read the contract before you sign it. If you don′t understand something in the contract, ask for clarification. If the salesperson is uncooperative or acts confused, walk away from the situation. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, always get a copy of the contract you sign.


    Federal Trade Commission
    Office of Consumer Education
    Washington, DC 20580
    (202) 326-2222
    Request the “Cooling-Off Rule” information sheet. Or download the PDF:

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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