Don't get stung by changing contract provisions

You can't change contract terms, but companies can, sometimes with scant notice

Published: March 13, 2014 06:00 AM

Many companies give themselves the right to change their service agreements whenever they like, sometimes without giving you a heads up.

It could be your bank suddenly raising its minimum deposit requirements, for example. Maybe it's a social media site loosening its privacy policy. Or perhaps it's your telecommunications provider dropping your favorite channels from its lineup.

In October, T-Mobile notified some customers with grandfathered cell phone plans that it was moving them to new plans that could cost them more.  

For more ways to protect yourself financially, read "Don't Let These Ad Traps Catch You."

Chase's deposit account agreement says the bank can change fees and other account features with 30 days notice.

The terms of service for The New York Times' website say it's up to users to notice changes in its terms of service: "It is your responsibility to review these Terms of Service prior to each use of the Site and by continuing to use this Site, you agree to any changes."

Even Consumer Reports' user agreement allows changes to pricing and other terms, for example when a subscription renews. Subscribers may be notified by e-mail, conventional mail, text, or a notice on the website. To opt out, they must cancel their subscriptions.

What to do. When buying a product or service, especially from a company with which you'll have an ongoing relationship, read the contract fine print to determine how changes are communicated and how you must respond if you don't accept them. If you're making a purchase from a company you've dealt with before, don't assume the terms and conditions are the same as they were in the past. If you don't reread them, you could be in for an unhappy surprise. Don't ignore letters, e-mails, or other notices from companies. They might contain information about a change you may not like.

Anthony Giorgianni

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