So. Remember the story about the Connecticut man who got busted for speeding in his rental car by the GPS the rental company had installed? Apparently he sued Acme Rent-a-Car and they dropped the fees on the grounds that – although it was clearly stated in the contract – he hadn’t thoroughly read the contract he signed when he rented the car.

What is the point of a contract if it’s meaningless?

What the hell? What is the point of a contract if it’s meaningless? This really drives me nuts. I’m sorry, but if he SIGNED the contract, it’s his own fault for not reading what he was signing! It couldn’t have looked exactly like all the others he had signed because it had AN ADDITIONAL SECTION concerning the GPS system! Now, I can see if there was nothing in the contract about the GPS system that he would have an argument, but otherwise … Please!

Slippery slope, anyone? Caveat emptor, anyone? Ignorantia juris non excusat, anyone?

How about if I am 3 months late on my truck payment? The bank will (quite legally) charge me late fees and interest rates up the wazoo – and they could even repossess my truck! But according to this kind of thing, I could sue the bank and say, “Hey! I believe you when you say it was in the contract, but I didn’t read the fine print!” and they would have to say, “Oh. Sorry. Our bad. We included that in the contract you signed and we were responsible on our end (by letting you use the truck like we said we would) but it looks like we didn’t realize that you might not have read the fine print.” That’s just W.R.O.N.G.
What’s the difference between that and NOT HAVING FINE PRINT?!?!? If “what’s in the fine print” is meaningless, because the consumer has no obligation to READ or KNOW what’s there, what obligation does the manufacturer have to be HONEST in the fine print?! None! So the next time you buy a bottle of Coke, when you read the ingredients on the side and see, “horse urine” listed, what do you do? You can call Coke, but they would have every right to say, “Oh, that fine print DOESN’T MATTER. We put all kinds of stuff on there – just for funsies! – because it’s MEANINGLESS. Don’t worry. It doesn’t really have any horse urine in it.” And what would you believe then?

These are the times that try men’s souls …

And please note that I’m not going to rent a car from these people. I don’t think that it’s cool that they track your usage of their rental cars with GPS (well … beyond the fact that it’s cool that it’s 2001-techno-neato and I dig that), but I believe if they state so explicitly in the contract that they make you sign, that they have every right to do so … By signing the contract you AGREE to let them, so …

There are 3 comments on this post

  1. Just becuase the rental car company chose to drop the fees doesn’t have any bearing on the legal effect of the contract. Although in some instances courts will strike down similar provisions (and I hear that Connecticut has unusually strong consumer-protection laws, so it may be more common there) the general rule is that a person who signs a contract is deemed to have read and understood it. That’s why I ALWAYS read my rental car contracts, much to the chagrin of the poor saps behind the counter.

  2. You chide the renter for not reading the contract but if you had read the news story like you should have, you would have noticed that he sued the rental agency because the law says only official goverment organizations can collect speeding fines. Get the facts before you rant.

  3. I’ve read several articles on this case, thank you. The rental agency wasn’t collecting a speeding fine, they were collecting a fine because the driver used their car inappropriately, according to the conditions of the contract he signed.

Add to the discussion:

I'll never share your email address and it won't be published.

What Is This? is the personal weblog of me, David Vincent Gagne. I've been publishing here since 1999, which makes this one of the oldest continuously-updated websites on the Internet.

A few years ago I was trying to determine what cocktails I could make with the alcohol I had at home. I searched the App Store but couldn't find an app that would let me do that, so I built one.


You can read dozens of essays and articles and find hundreds of links to other sites with stories and information about Ernest Hemingway in The Hemingway Collection.