Two decades ago, contract law ran headlong into online terms of service, looked around briefly in confusion, and announced that it needed to go take a nap. It has not been heard from since. In its place we have something that looks like contract law, and claims to be contract law, but is oddly ignorant of things that the real contract law would know. This usurper, part Martin Guerre and part pod person, is formalistic to a fault, obsessed with meaningless details, lazy beyond belief, and utterly devoid of human feeling.
Generations of scholars have tried to unmask this impostor, to little effect. Lauren Willis’s Performance-Based Consumer Law offers a different and more promising way of protecting consumers from overreaching and incomprehensible terms of service. Consumer law cares about form contracts, too, but it can afford to be more realistic about how well consumers actually understand them – or don’t.