The Fallacy of Informed Consent: Linguistic Markers of Assent and Contractual Design in Some E-User Agreements
Keywords:Contract design, Choice architecture, Textual markers, Peri-textual markers, Linguistic markers
AbstractOrthodox contract law theory assumes that parties agree to the terms of a contract before entering into an agreement. However, recent factual evidence points towards the fact that consumers do not systematically read, and thus become informed of, the terms of a contract. Academics are asking for mandatory frameworks to ensure that informed consent is indeed sought and given by parties to a contract. The present study looks into the user agreements of four online companies that provide a marketplace for the sale of goods or free provision of services by other sellers and/or users (Ebay, Tripadvisor, YouTube and Amazon). The aim is firstly to identify the lexical/textual markers and peri-textual features of agreement in order to highlight the fallacy of informed consent. Secondly, the paper lists textual and peri-textual alternative contractual design (here called counter-design) in online user agreement. In so doing, contractual design features are distinguished from nudges. Suggested counter-design features help make informed consent effective.
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