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Online contract dispute shows importance of attention to terms

A recent story about a contract dispute between a woman in New York and an online dating site shows clearly how important careful attention to contracts and terms of service can be.

The woman sued the popular site for Jewish singles, JDate, in her hometown of New York City. Lawyers for the company that runs the dating site, Spark Networks, said that any litigation must happen in Los Angeles. The company argued that venue selection was covered in its terms and conditions.

As with all contract disputes, careful attention to detail makes all the difference. The court looked closely not only at the terms and conditions, but also at the way that the site asked the users to agree to those terms. In this case, the company did things properly. It not only showed the link to the terms before the users signed up, but forced them to click the box saying that they agreed with those terms. In effect, the users have to agree via two separate actions.

Seeing that the company had done things properly, the court recently ruled that the proper venue for the case was indeed Los Angeles. If the company had not paid such careful attention to detail, it could have been forced to have its representatives appear in New York, hire representation there, or both -- just to defend itself against claims from a single user. Now those costs will be saved and the company will be able to defend itself in the jurisdiction under which it created the terms and conditions in the first place.

Source: Forbes, "Courts Won't Bail You Out If You Can't Remember What Contract Terms You've Agreed To," Eric Goldman, July 12, 2013

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