An Open Letter to John Oliver

Dear Mr Oliver:

Your show, Last Week Tonight, has had several entertaining segments on consumer law issues, including debt buyers, credit reports, and student loans. But you're missing out on a consumer law subject that can be quite entertaining (unfortunately), even without your special touch. I refer to consumer disclosures.  Some of the aspects of disclosure that lend themselves to your style:

  • The iTunes contract runs 32 feet when printed out in 8 point font. See here.
  • A British game company, for an April fool’s joke, put in its online terms that people agreeing to the contract gave up their soul on demand.  Nearly 90% of the customers assented to losing their souls.  The company never collected. More here
  • Chicago experimenters had students sign a fake consent form that obliged them to administer electric shocks to people and do pushups upon demand; the contract itself said people shouldn’t sign it. Nearly all signed it. After the experimenters told the students the truth and gave them the real consent form, many signed it without reading it and the average student spent only seconds reading it. You can read about it here
  • Only one or two consumers in a thousand spends as much as one second reading online forms. See here.
  • The people who lost their homes in foreclosure all got federal disclosure forms telling them what they would have to pay. But the forms had several problems.  Millions of the forms were required by law to state the wrong numbers.  Many consumers couldn’t understand the forms anyway.  But maybe it doesn’t matter because few consumers spent much time reading them. I wrote about it here
  • Consumers can’t understand disclosures and imagine that these "whimsy little contracts" can’t affect their rights anyway—which is absolutely wrong. For more on whimsy little contracts, go here

I suspect your lawyers have told you not to use unsolicited ideas for fear of being sued for copyright infringement or some such thing, so I hereby waive any right I have to sue you for use of these ideas (after all, for all I know, such a segment is already in the works for your show).  But my son would be very impressed if you mentioned my name. Better do it soon, because he's getting to the age when he would be more embarrassed if you said my name than impressed.


Jeff Sovern

0 thoughts on “An Open Letter to John Oliver

  1. Edwin Bell says:

    Consumers, like us, in Maryland, who have been forced to fight their cases in the courts of public opinion through on-line media such as Twitter, Blogger, or Google+, etc. are changing the way consumers confront and expose illegal debt collection.
    Although consumers are often accused of not defending against debt collection complaints in many states our case reveals what happens when they do defend. Consumers rely on a court’s ability to fairly adjudicate their case…..our case demonstrates what consumers face bias and prejudice orchestrated by debt collection attorney throughout the judicial process.
    Corporate influence of our courts is a “well-known secret” which has given…Junk Debt Buyers control the courts and prevailing with visibly illegitimate arguments over authenticated evidence and controlling case law.
    Much too often, consumers find themselves in “Civil Hand-Cuffs”…striped of due process rights….with impediments on their rights to defend…..and their evidence ignored.. Regardless, consumers find themselves, unnecessarily, forced into the appellate courts for cases consumers should have won in the lower court’s, absent the “corporate influence” of the courts.
    In our case is a well known fact that our mortgage was paid in full on August 4, 2009, prior to ratification… it is another well known fact that our foreclosure was included in the National Mortgage Settlement and Independent Foreclosure Review.
    Below is a link to over four years of history in our consumer case as civil defendants, briefs, extracts, many motions, and documents are all available through this link.
    Crimes against consumers are rampant.

  2. Mike Gilmore says:

    Jeff, hats off. Entertaining, informative, and very thoughtfly aimed. If the lawyers- all of us that care about consumers not getting rookydoed – can find media outlets to help spread knowledge in venues and formats that consumers like to consume, that has to bode well. Please keep us informed of the outcome, and don’t lose heart if this one doesn’t make. Other targets of opportunity will present themselves.

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