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Texas contract law, enforceability of contract fine print, boilerplate language

Dallas, TX |

I own a small company and my assistant signed a "Service Agreement" with a shredding company.

On the front of the agreement, there is absolutely no mention of it being a contract or long term agreement. It only details pricing.

However, on the back in the pre-printed fine print, it states that it is a 3 year contract. I can cancel, but I would still have to pay the entire contract. My only out is if they are in default of the contract.

Do I have any way out? It was clearly misleading and the sales rep called it a "Service Agreement" and never mentioned the 3 year agreement to us when we signed it. We only found out when we tried to cancel the contract to cut costs.

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Attorney answers 1


Contract questions such as these can be tricky. I am guessing that the front of the contract probably refers to the back of the contract in some way, or else you had to sign or initial the back of the contract. Or possibly the pages are numbered as "1" and "2", or there is something to tie them together as one document in some way.
If not, then you may be able to argue that the print on the back was not included and agreed to in your particular case.

As far as what the sales rep said: Generally in a contract case, you look to the "four corners" of the agreement (that is, what is written on paper) and what is SAID is not relevant. The contract may even say that in print. So what is said may not be relevant.

On the other hand, this could also be a DTPA (Deceptive Trade Practices Act) case. You would have to show that the salesman was deliberately misleading, beyond mere "puffing" (normal sales talk) and/or that the contract itself was deceptive and misleading.

A DTPA case is "trickier" than a regular contract case, because there are certain notices that must be given in a timely manner, under the law.

Once you finish analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your case, you may want to approach the other company and try to settle the matter, or contact an attorney for further help (especially if you decide to go with Deceptive trade), and/or file the case in a small claims court. Be aware that if you are filng deceptive trade there are certain legal steps and notices PRIOR to filing a suit.