What is a contract?

Almost every purchase you make involves a contract between you and the seller.  If you have ever bought a car, hired a worker to make a repair, or bought a shirt on a credit card, you have entered into a contract.

How do I protect myself?

The following are some tips when entering into a contract:

  • Insist that the salesperson let you take home a copy of the contract before you sign it.
  • Read the contract, including the small print, before you sign.
  • If you have questions or do not understand, do not sign until you talk to an attorney.
  • Insist that all promises be put in writing in the contract before you sign; otherwise, they are probably not enforceable.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces that the salesman says he will fill in later.
  • Insist that incorrect information in the contract be corrected before you sign.
  • Watch for arbitration agreements, or agreements that limit your rights to sue in court. If your contract contains an arbitration agreement, ask that it be removed from your contract or follow the instructions to opt out.

What do I do if I have a dispute with a business?

Send a letter to the business by certified or registered mail explaining your dispute.  Keep a copy of the letter for your records. Send copies of receipts, contracts, or other papers that support your dispute. Never send your original documents. If the business does not resolve the dispute, file a complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs at https://tn.gov/commerce/topic/consumer-file-a-consumer-complaint. The Division can mediate consumer disputes with businesses. You can also talk to your local legal aid or a private attorney about legal remedies that might be available.

Contracts PDF

Acknowledgements & Disclaimer: This Fact Sheet was prepared by West Tennessee Legal Services (WTLS) and made possible by Serving Tennessee Seniors-administered by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee at the request of the Chancery Court. WTLS thanks the Tennessee Bar Association for its permission to use The Legal Handbook for Tennessee Seniors (2014 edition) as a primary information source. This publication is supported, in part, by funds provided by the Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability, the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of the Southwest Area Agency on Aging and Disability or any agency of Tennessee or the U.S. government. Fact Sheets are for information only and not intended to replace legal advice. If you are in need of legal help, call WTLS at (800) 372-8346, or seek the help of a private attorney. (Revised 5/2017)