Company refuses to honor one of two offers that were agreed to
April 11, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Legal experts of AskMe, I ask for your advice (which is not to be interpreted as legal advice)! Company X provided two online bonus offers. At the time I registered for the offers, neither offer stated that they could not be combined with the other. However, Company X only wants to apply one of the offers.

Their justification is:
1) AFTER I registered for the offer, they added a term to one of the offers saying it could not be combined with another offer.

Applying the new terms to me without informing me of the new terms seems like it would breach the common law principle of mutual assent, and the mirror image rule. (IANAL)

2) They had a clause in the offer stating that "Offers, rules, and participating merchants are subject to change without notice."

To me, this "Anthing Goes" clause seems like it would cause only one party to be bound to the contract and associated transaction, since Company X can change any of the rules of the offer at will without notice. Therefore it seems like it would be unenforceable under the doctrine of Unconscionability, as stated in section 2-302 of the United States Uniform Commercial Code. (See also Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co., 350 F.2d 445 (D.C. Cir. 1965)) (IANAL)

Aside from the legal aspect, attemting to enforce this clause over a petty matter seems like terrible PR.

I spent hundreds of dollars to participate in these offers. I am going to write to Company X and ask that they enforce both offers. Based on what I have said, are my legal grounds solid, and/or do you have any better ideas? (No responses will be interpreted as legal advice.) Thanks!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm not an American. I'm not a contract lawyer. This isn't legal advice.

If you read and agreed to their offer and relied on it to your detriment, you might have a case. The fact that you spent money participating in these offers might be construed as performing your end of the contract, and the court might be inclined to ignore the clause you've pointed to, especially if your performance/detrimental reliance occurred before they changed the terms on you. You'd need a lawyer in your jurisdiction with access to the whole contract to tell you for sure.
posted by smorange at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the response. The timeline for this is as follows:
1) I registered for Offer #1
2) Unbeknownest to me, they change the terms of Offer #1 to say that it can't be combined with another offer
3) I register for Offer #2, which doesn't say it can't be combined
4) I pay money to Company Y, which then activates the Company X offers. At no point am I informed of the new terms of Offer #1. Company X only applies Offer #1, not Offer #2.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:51 AM on April 11, 2011

Hard to give more specific analysis without knowing what we're talking about though, as it's not immediately clear why the two companies have anything to do with each other.

Mostly, it seems likely that you simply failed to see something in the fine print from one or both companies which would permit them to do this. But without actually seeing said documents, it's hard to say more.

Either way, getting a judge to bite on an argument premised on the doctrine of unconscionability is really, really tough. We're talking "utter outrages to one's sense of justice," i.e. things which border on fraud and/or impose significant unexpected hardship on the plaintiff, not marginally sketchy stuff like this.

Besides, the UCC isn't actually law. It's a model law drafted by a group of academics which has been implemented in many states, but it is not, itself, law. Also, citing to precedent from the 1960s, even from the DC Circuit, isn't going to get you much. Even more than statutes, case law is subject to change. You'll want to find stuff from the past twenty years, preferably the past ten. In short: none of the legal authority to which you cite is going to help you all that much.

Look, you may be able to get somewhere on the PR angle, but odds are really good that they're legally permitted to do this. I'm just sayin'.
posted by valkyryn at 10:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's impossible to say whether you have a case or not without knowing what precedent and legislation look like in your jurisdiction. Since there's only a few hundred dollars at stake here--albeit presumably more if both contracts were performed--if your income is low enough, you might try getting a law student at a local law school to write a letter for you. Many law schools offer free legal advice, under the supervision of a lawyer, and will even write and send a demand letter to the company for you. That would make it look more official, at least. But I have to tell you, depending on the company, I wouldn't be surprised if they ignored any letter you sent. Still, it might be worth a try.
posted by smorange at 10:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your responses. Company X is an airline which made two offers to provide bonus miles if I transferred reward points from a Company Y credit card. I spent money to get the points from Company Y, and then I transferred them to Company X.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:26 AM on April 11, 2011

Okay, that makes sense.

Probably doesn't help you though. The contracts regarding airline miles and credit card reward points are notoriously byzantine. Like multiple legal-sized pages of fine print. Finding something in there which will permit them to do this strikes me as almost a certainty. Again, can't know without reading said documents, but things aren't looking good just on first impression.
posted by valkyryn at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2011

Try posting your question with specifics here.
posted by Xurando at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Followup: My wife is a student who gets cheap legal services for "consumer problems". We went to the university lawyer, and for $50 he agreed to send a demand letter to Company X (which is Delta Air Lines, who owed us SkyMiles). The lawyer proceeded to spend months ignoring our case, but he eventually apologized, refunded our $50, and wrote Delta the demand letter, including a threat of future legal action. Delta responded without any admission that they owed us, but they agreed to give us the SkyMiles as a gesture of goodwill.

Thanks for your answers!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:07 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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