The Federal Trade Commission and Online Consumer Contracts

Smith, Hilary

Consumer contracts have long posed a challenge for traditional contract enforcement regimes. With the rise in quick online transactions involving clickwrap and browsewrap contracts, these challenges only become more pressing. This Note identifies the problems inherent in the current system and explores proposals and past attempts to improve online consumer contract interpretation and enforcement. Ultimately, this Note identifies the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) as an appropriate and effective agency to provide the much-needed change to online consumer contract enforcement. Based upon its authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to regulate unfair business practices, the broad discretion that Congress has afforded the FTC, and its successful incursion into the related field of online privacy law, the FTC is uniquely situated to promulgate a new online consumer contracting regime. This Note illustrates the basis and precedent for such a step and explores the form and effects of FTC involvement in online consumer contracts.

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Columbia Business Law Review

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November 19, 2019