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Seduction by Contract: Law, Economics, and Psychology in Consumer Markets 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0199663361
ISBN-10: 019966336X
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Editorial Reviews


What makes Bar-Gills argument both fresh and impressive is its detailed exploration of actual consumer markets and its careful argument that myopia, unrealistic optimism, and a lack of salience are playing a significant role in those markets. Cass Sunstein, The New Republic Exceptionally illuminating and packed with findings and ideas. Seduction By Contract is important reading for those interested in behavioral economics, human behavior, and some of the most important policy debates of the current decade." Cass R. Sunstein, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and former Administrator, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Professor Bar-Gill, a pioneer in the injection of psychological realism into economic analysis of law, has written a very timely and very important book on consumer contracts, and specifically on the ominous ingenuity with which modern marketers exploit the incapacity of so many consumers to understand complex contractual terms, especially relating to credit. His book will inform administrative and judicial regulation of consumer contracts. Judge Richard A. Posner This book shows why Oren Bar-Gill was the first winner of the American Law Institute's Young Scholars Medal. Economics and psychology are melded to explain legal reforms that would improve the contractual rights of consumers who obtain credit cards, mortgages, or cell phones. This is first-class legal scholarship that can influence public policy. Lance Leibman, Director, American Law Institute As Oren Bar-Gill's designated rational choice "nemesis," I applaud his ambitious efforts to account for the role of human error in the full range of consumer transactions. His bold claim that product and service providers, even in competitive markets, are able to manipulate the terms of standard form contracts to their private advantage, if sustainable, creates a prima facie case for government regulation of these consumer markets. Bar-Gill's work promises to be at the center of a continuing debate of national importance. Richard Epstein, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, New York University School of Law Oren Bar-Gill argues that consumer contracts are often both inefficient and exploitative in predictable ways, and illustrates with case studies. The claim is provocative but plausible, and the analysis addresses many of an economist's follow-on questions. I look forward to teaching from this book. Joseph V. Farrell, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

About the Author

Oren Bar-Gill is the Evelyn and Harold Meltzer Professor of Law and Economics at the New York University School of Law. Bar-Gill joined the NYU faculty in January 2005 from Harvard University, where he was a Fellow at the Society of Fellows, as well as an Olin Fellow at Harvard Law School. Bar-Gill holds a B.A. (economics), LL.B., M.A. (law & economics), and Ph.D. (economics) from Tel-Aviv University, as well as an LL.M. and S.J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Bar-Gill's scholarship focuses on the law and economics of contracts. His more than 30 articles have been published in leading law reviews and peer-reviewed journals. In 2011, Bar-Gill's work on consumer contracts was recognized by the American Law Institute, which awarded him its inaugural Young Scholar Medal. Bar-Gill is currently a co-Reporter for the American Law Institute's project on the Law of Consumer Contracts. Bar-Gill is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Law and Economics Association. He advises both government agencies and private sector parties on issues pertaining to consumer contracts and consumer protection.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019966336X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199663361
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,978,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PHIL on May 6, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most every consumer I have discussed this with, has hassles with this problem of large, obscure contracts, and their slippery applications by major companies such as telecoms. In my earlier incarnation as a practicing lawyer, I recall trying a case defending a client's (not a telecom company, a company in a different industry) ridiculously complex contract language. I had won plenty of these, relying on the basic rule going back to common law: if you signed it, you must perform it, even if you did not bother to understand it. In that case, a rare event, the judge decided (against us) that the contract would not be enforced, because it was so incomprehensible as to be "unconscionable." As a result the client took a one-time loss in that case, fairly large for that sort of business. I suggested improvements in the contract clarity to the client. No action was forthcoming. Why? Here is a lesson in consumer contracts logic as practiced nowadays: the contract (across thousands of customers) was making something like $100 million per year, almost pure profit, as it was. I.e., customers just signed on, uncomplaining, and threw money at this company. And business logic is, if it makes profit like that, why "fix" it? Eventually, the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection came in and forced these companies to "fix" it along lines I had suggested.
We would all like free markets to prevent such an inefficiency. Is this the business's or the consumer's fault, if it is anyone's? This author suggests this is a market failure warranting different government involvement. Maybe so, I'm not here to answer that question. Millions of consumers are being pushed around by companies, in my opinion, and their docility (and failure to express dissent by taking business elsewhere until a company DOES treat them reasonably) astounds me. Here is a fine walk-through of many of these issues.
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