To prove a point about how few people actually read the "terms and conditions" when making a purchase online, British game retailer GameStation decided to play an April fools joke on its customers, tricking many of them into agreeing to hand over the rights to their soul
. GameStation's current terms require online purchasers of its products to agree to the following:
By placing an order via this Web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.
The company provided a simple opt-out check-box and inferred from the number of shoppers who didn't click the box (about 88%) that very little attention is paid to such agreements. The fact that so few people read the contracts they sign is not exactly news
, but the troublesome part is that these contracts are generally enforced -- although, in this case, GameStation admitted that they would not hold customers to the "immortal soul" clause. Contract law is founded on the notion that we are all free and equal individuals left to our own devices to enter into whatever transactions we wish. Moreover, many believe that any limitations on what individuals can be allowed to agree to (within certain well-accepted limits) are counter to economic wisdom. But when we face up to the fact so few people actually read these agreements, sooner or later we're likely to have to admit that some limits
on what retailers can require in these agreements may make sense.