How to get out of contract is a dilemma faced by consumers every day, and chances are there have been several times in your life when you’ve been faced with the same predicament. After all, we all enter into hundreds, if not thousands, of contracts throughout our life. There’s a good chance we haven’t been happy with all of them. Once the thrill of making a purchase passes, we’re often left wondering: “Why in the world did I buy this?”

We know that we should be more careful before we sign on the dotted line. We’ve all heard (and of course disregarded) the advice to always read the fine print. Yet, it’s bound to happen that eventually, we’re going to want to find a way to get out of a contract that we’ve put our John Doe on.

Fortunately, not every decision is final, and there are several ways to get out of a contract. Among the legal avenues you can take are:

  • Ask to have the contract canceled. Sometimes all you have to do is approach the other party to the contract and ask them to cancel it. You can do it in person or in writing (which is good if you want a written record of your request). You can even offer to pay a small fee for their trouble. It might be cheaper for the other side to call things off than taking you to court for breach of contract.
  • Take advantage of the “cooling off” period. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides a 3-day right to cancel any purchase more than $25 which you make in your home or outside a business’ main premises. It was originally created to give consumers the luxury of returning items sold by door-to-door salesmen, but it applies to a wide variety of purchases today.
  • Review consumer protection laws. Every state has different statutes that offer consumers the right to get out of a contract. Check the laws in your state.
  • Just say “No.” You always have the option to just stop making payments. Yes, you are essentially breaching the contract and could face legal ramifications, but sometimes it’s the only way to really get the attention of the other party. Again, they may find it more convenient and cheaper to negotiate a settlement than pursue a remedy through legal means.
  • Hire an attorney. If you’re trying to get out of a contract that has or will cost you a lot of money, it might be worth it to consult with an attorney experienced in contract law in your state to determine the best way to get out of your contract.

Determining Validity of a Contract

There might be a chance that the contract you entered into isn’t enforceable in the first place and you have no obligation to abide by its terms. Certain conditions must exist for a contract to stand up under legal scrutiny. These are:

  • Offer. One party makes a promise to perform (or not perform) a task or provide goods to the other party.
  • Acceptance. In return, the other party gives their assent to the offer, and in doing so establishes a promise between the parties.
  • Capacity. The parties must establish that they have the ability to fulfill both the offer and acceptance.
  • Consideration. This an obligation created by the offer being made and accepted.
  • Intention to create a legal document. Both parties enter the agreement understanding that it will be enforceable in a court of law.
  • Certainty. There must be no ambiguity as to the intention of the two parties. This is also known as a “meeting of the minds.”
  • Free consent. Both parties are entering the agreement of their own free will.

It is up to you (or your attorney) to establish if any of these conditions have not been met should you take the matter into a court of law or to arbitration.

The best way to get out of an undesirable contract is to never sign one in the first place. You should always take the time to gain a full understanding of exactly what you are getting into. Consider the contract from all angles, ask questions, and, if you’re making a really big commitment, consult an attorney before you sign it.

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