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I am helping a friend who has signed some documents for her business with a Credit Card Processor company. However, at the time of signing up for this service she forgot to ask for a copy of all documents that she actually signed.

Now this credit card processor company is bullying my friend by charging fees without even sending a monthly bill and also charging ridiculous early termination fee.

I would like to help my friend, however, since she does not have any documents that I can look at, I really do not know what are the terms they have agreed upon. Also, I am not sure about contract existence in the first place, because another person on Better Business Bureau website has left a bad review for this company, because they did not leave him a copy of contract as well and he had to go through the same mess. Also, my friend called them today and this company simply dropped phone, so it seems that there is no friendly option on table anymore.

My questions are:

  1. Is sales person required by law to give a copy of signed contract at the time you sign up for service?
  2. If I would ask for copy of all documents from that company are they required by law to send her these copies?
  3. Is there a law that mandates process on how contracts should be signed in California?

I would find it kinda silly if there is no law that requires them to provide a copy, because, then, if contract simply gets lost and the other party knows this, then there is no way for you to know, if other party is imitating new contract terms that are better for him. Of course eventually, if case goes all the way to the court, then judge would ask them to provide a copy.

  • It doesn't need to go all the way to court for you to get copies of contracts. If a lawsuit is filed, the discovery process requires both sides to provide the evidence used for their claims and defenses. – jqning Dec 8 '15 at 16:32
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Is sales person required by law to give a copy of signed contract at the time you sign up for service?

No.

If I would ask for copy of all documents from that company are they required by law to send her these copies?

No.

Is there a law that mandates process on how contracts should be signed in California?

There are many, however, they relate to specific classes of contract. In general, it is not a requirement that a contract be signed or even written; verbal contracts are totally legitimate.

Given that every single transaction where money changes hands in return for goods and/or services is or is part of a contract it is not feasible that they all be signed. Have you bought a cup of coffee today? Did you sign a contract when you did?

Here's the thing

Your friend has learned several valuable business lessons: the first is some people in business will rip you off. If you are a consumer then you have (some) legal protection, however, if you are in business then the courts and the legislature expect you to look after yourself.

Your friend has signed a contract. Pretty much, any court will consider that what they signed would be the entire contract unless there was compelling evidence to the contrary. Her word that the sales rep said there would be no break charges would not on its own be compelling evidence. Your friend has an obvious incentive to lie. Here is the second lesson: don't sign anything unless and until you have read and understood it; hire a lawyer if you need to in order to understand it.

Now, either under the contract the company is legitimately allowed to charge these fees or it isn't. Without having a copy of the contract you have no way to tell. Thus the third lesson: always keep your own copy of everything you sign.

What your friend can do is: nothing. Don't pay the bill, write to them saying that she disputes that she owes them any money at all. If you want to be provocative, suggest which court would be most convenient if they want to prove the debt. Odds are this will go no further. If they do proceed with a summons then they will need to state their case. At that point she can request through the court a copy of the contract they are relying on. If their claims are legit she can simply roll over.

  • Thanks. What would be considered as "compelling evidence"? 1)If I would get this company to admit on a customer service phone call that there was a 1 month free trial, can I use it in court as evidence? 2) If I would get other mistreated customers to confirm that sales person mispromised 1 month free trial, could that be used in court as well (there are some customers on BBB and YP websites that complain about same thing)? 3) If I would convince one of their ex-sales person to confess that company does this, can I use that as evidence? – Jonny Dec 8 '15 at 19:06
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This is a chicken-and-egg problem.

If not contract was possessed, and a case went to court, the only one presentable is by the defendant. If the plaintiff cannot prove otherwise, the case is thrown out.

Regardless of whether a jurisdiction defines a law for requiring the provision of an 'original' contract, the plaintiff can experience any worse-case scenario if they have not looked out for themselves in a business dealing.

  • Since the Credit Card Processor Company has already charged my friend with these drastic Early Termination and other Fees, I thought to tell my friend to report these account charges as fraud to her bank. However, in this case she could become defendant herself if it turns out that there was a contract and she was supposed to be paying all these fees. – Jonny Dec 8 '15 at 1:15
  • I also have to mention that the sales person from this company verbally promised that service is free of charge for a month under trial period which contradicts to what is allegedly written in contract that only they posses. However, since the conversation was not recorded no one can really prove that as well. – Jonny Dec 8 '15 at 1:16
  • So you'd have to establish a pattern of malfeasance on the part of the defendant. Do a cost-benefit. – New Alexandria Dec 8 '15 at 4:53
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    It's only really a chicken and egg problem when the person attempting to enforce a contract or seek damages for breach of contract is the one who does not have a copy. Even then, actions taken by either party - including verbal undertakings - could serve as evidence that the parties did in fact enter into a contract and intended to be legally bound by it. – jimsug Dec 8 '15 at 5:04

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