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February 21, 2005



Where's your perfect markets messiah now!

Lancelot Finn

From the point of view of libertarian doctrine, Blockbuster does have the right to set any policy it wants, because customers who do business with Blockbuster consent to that policy. It's a contract.

But when is a contract valid? If the customer is confused and signs up to a contract he doesn't understand, is he still bound by the contract? Whose version of the contract stands?

I think libertarians should be sympathetic to consumer protection inasmuch as it protects them against misleading advertising. The law should force companies to be careful and clear in the types of contracts they draw people into.

I'm sensitive to this because the Nazi scoundrels at CINGULAR are robbing me blind. They gave me a regional instead of a national plan and then pounded me with $1400 of roaming charges. Yes, I signed the contract. But I thought I had a national plan, and anyway, I would never have imagined that I could accumulate such huge charges without them cutting off the service or calling me. This should be illegal.

And please don't do business with CINGULAR.

Jason Turner

Lancelot...I agree with you that we should be sympathetic to efforts at consumer protection. When I wrote that I was usually wary of such claims, I did not mean to imply that my sympathies lie with the company. I was thinking specifically of the Ralph Nader/local news variety of consumer protection in which companies are caricaturized as evil corporations misleading an unsuspecting public, and which imply that the only useful type of consumer protection can be found in government mandates. Obviously, the enforcement of contracts (when in dispute) is a government function; overlord agencies policing the market in the name of consumer protection is not.

Having said that, I think we can safely say that Blockbuster Video has been, at best, misleading and, at worst, deceptive. The clerk really did tell me 'No, no late fees' even after I pressed him for the catch and the details. New Jersey has called it deceptive. I would call it an out and out lie.

As for your Cingular bill, it's unbelievable that they will not work with you to amend your bill in light of the misunderstanding. I'm sure you've already tried speaking with the customer service supervisor. Changing your carrier won't reduce your bill, but seems the only appropriate course now. You may also want to browse this guy:
I've found him to be fairly helpful in matters like these.

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