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As long as they contain the elements that form a legal agreement, online contracts are enforceable. A person who clicks on a box to indicate agreement to the terms is entering into a legal instrument that is just as binding as if the person signed his or her name to it. For this reason, it's important to read through the terms and conditions carefully, including clicking on any hyperlinks contained in the online document, before making a decision to agree to it.
For online contracts to be enforceable, they must include an offer to purchase a product or a service. The other person must agree to buy the item or engage someone to perform the service. To make the online document enforceable, there must be some valuable consideration. This is a sum of money paid by the purchaser to the seller.
Another element that must be present to form a legal contract is a meeting of minds. The person who is buying a product or ordering a service and the individual or company offering to provide it must clearly indicate their intention to enter into a contract for that purpose. This concept may also be referred to as mutual assent, and each party to the contract must be bargaining in good faith for it to be enforceable.
Since online contracts can be enforced, it's important for the Internet user to read through all the terms carefully. It's also wise to print out a copy of the contract for future reference. All the elements of the online contract are important, including any hyperlinks contained in the online document.
Some software companies may choose to use a clickwrap agreement for their online contracts. This is the electronic form of what is known as a shrinkwrap contract used by computer software companies. The idea behind this form of legal agreement is that once a customer breaks the seal on the shrinkwrap on a product, the customer is deemed to have agreed to the terms.
A computer user may not think that the user terms that come up when a hyperlink is clicked count as online contracts. In fact, these terms are considered part of a contract and the Internet user has the option of agreeing to them by clicking on a box or typing the word "Yes" where indicated. If the individual doesn't do so, he or she can't buy the software being offered.
With my work, I deal with clients in other regions and countries, so much of the paperwork I fill out and sign is done with online contract forms. Though not having the contracts in front of me in hard copy form still seems a bit strange, I treat online contracts the same as I would any other contract.
Successful companies don't make a practice of signing contracts they cannot have enforced, so I read every word carefully, and ask questions when there is something I do not understand.
I'm guilty of agreeing to terms online and never reading the terms. I am especially bad about this with software agreements. I know I shouldn't do this, but the terms of agreement are so long and I can't understand some of them even when I take the time to read them. As bad as it sounds, until I run into a problem, I will continue to skip over the terms and just click on "Accept."
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