Mary DeFontes bought a computer and a service contract from Dell Computers Corp. DeFontes was charged $950.51, of which $13.51 was identified on the invoice as “tax.” This amount was paid to the state of Rhode Island. DeFontes and other Dell customers filed a suit in a Rhode Island state court against Dell, claiming that Dell was overcharging its customers by collecting a tax on service contracts and transportation costs. Dell asked the court to order DeFontes to submit the dispute to arbitration. Dell cited its “Terms and Conditions Agreement,” which provides, in part, that by accepting delivery of Dell’s products or services, a customer agrees to submit any dispute to arbitration. Customers can view this agreement through an inconspicuous link at the bottom of Dell’s Web site, and Dell encloses a copy with each order when it is shipped. Dell argued that DeFontes accepted these terms by failing to return her purchase within thirty days, although the agreement did not state this. Is DeFontes bound to the “Terms and Conditions Agreement”? Should the court grant Dell’s request? Why or why not?

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April 30, 2012

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