Unilateral modifications are changes made to a contract by one side, usually the seller. This means that the buyer has signed the contract and has agreed to the terms currently in the contract, as well as any future changes that the seller might make to the contract. There does not need to be a separate agreement after a change is made. Unilateral modifications are not supposed to alter the material or important terms of the original contract. Contracts often contain “change of terms” provisions that allow for the seller to alter certain parts of a contract, such as price, interest rate, or timing, without first telling the buyer. These types of changes are common in Consumer Service Agreements (CSAs), which are long-term agreements such as cell phone contracts, credit card agreements or cable television agreements. One major problem with unilateral modifications is that consumers do not typically receive much notice of any changes made, as they are increasingly being posted online rather than sent directly to consumers.

Example:

Tanesha ordered cable television for her new apartment. Six months later, the cable company increased the amount of its late fee. Tanesha was unaware of the change because the company updated the service agreement online and did not send her a copy in the mail. Because the agreement contained a “change of terms” provision, Tanesha could not negotiate a more reasonable late fee and was stuck paying more than she anticipated.

Sample – Cable TV Agreement:

We may change our prices, fees, the Services and/or the terms and conditions of this Agreement in the future. Unless this Agreement or applicable law specifies otherwise, we will give you thirty (30) days prior notice of any significant change to this Agreement. If you find the change unacceptable, you have the right to cancel your Service(s). However, if you continue to receive Service(s) after the end of the notice period (the “Effective Date”) of the change, you will be considered to have accepted the changes. You may not modify this Agreement by making any typed, handwritten, or any other changes to it for any purpose.