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Ohio Court of Appeals Rules Unsigned Credit Card Agreements Can Be Written Contracts

In a recent decision, the Ohio Court of Appeals considered the question whether, for the purpose of determining the applicable statute of limitations, an unsigned credit card agreement constituted a written or oral contract.

In Ohio, the statute of limitations is eight years for a written contract and six years for an oral contract. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2305.06, 2305.07.

A copy of the opinion in Unifund CCR Partners v. Piaser is available at:  Link to Opinion.

The Court noted that existing Ohio law was unclear on the written versus oral contract issue, and that previous decisions had determined only “that a consumer’s use of a credit card subjects him to a binding contract, which is governed by the terms of the agreement.” Am. Express Travel Related Servs. v. Silverman, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 06AP-338, 2006-Ohio-6374; Calvary SPV I, LLC v. Furtado, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 05AP-361, 2005-Ohio-6884.

The credit agreement in question provided that use of the card by the consumer would evidence acceptance of the terms of the agreement.  Explaining that parties can bind themselves to written contracts without providing physical signatures, the Court stated:

In the case of credit cards, a binding contract does not arise from signing anything, but rather is established by the act of using the credit card. It cannot be plausibly argued that the conscious decision to use the credit card is not a conscious agreement to accept the terms and conditions of the written Account Agreement. Only a lawyer could argue that the written Account Agreement is not a written contract.

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Eric Rosenkoetter is based in Maurice Wutscher’s Austin office. For many years, he has focused his practice on various aspects of financial services law. As a litigation attorney, he has conducted every aspect of the litigation process, including countless depositions, motion proceedings, bench and jury trials, and appeals in various courts. In addition, he has significant experience as a compliance and transactional attorney, providing strategic, business growth, legislative, compliance and regulatory advice to national corporations and trade associations. For example, he has drafted consumer contracts and disclosures designed to state-specific statutory requirements, and developed “Best Practices” guides and state-by-state compliance grids, for national financial services companies. He also conducted research and crafted a metrics report for a national trade association with analysis designed to counter the claims of advocacy groups. Eric’s experience also includes working for a national corporation as Executive Counsel, Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer, and Director of Legislative Affairs, and as a federal lobbyist and Director of Government and Public Affairs for a national financial services trade association. In the government sector, Eric presided over approximately 6,000 state administrative hearings, served as a staff attorney for the Missouri Senate, and handled litigation in 33 counties as a regional managing attorney. Eric frequently speaks to audiences on topics relevant to the financial services industry and related advocacy initiatives.

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