Indiana’s narrow three day cancellation laws could leave you stuck

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Before you sign on the dotted line, you should be sure you know whether you can change your mind about the contract you're authorizing.

CBS4 Problem Solvers started looking into Indiana's contract laws after hearing from a number of people who said, "I thought I could cancel," or "I called within hours of signing up."

Most of those consumers had signed contracts with Indianapolis Singles, a local dating service. A CBS4 Problem Solvers investigation found high-priced contracts and dozens of complaints filed against that company, which is owned by a man in Dallas, Texas.

The Central Indiana Better Business Bureau revoked Indianapolis Singles' accreditation, citing our investigation and the owner's history with previous dating companies.

Multiple people who signed up for the dating service said they didn't realize they were locked in the moment they signed the contract, despite a specific line they initialed next to that says "Indianapolis Singles does not grant, and you shall not request, refunds, cancellations or rescissions of any kind."

Scott Sermersheim signed that contract in August, but quickly changed his mind.

"I placed a phone call to them saying that I wanted to cancel ... less than an hour after I left their facility," Sermersheim said.

Sermersheim ended up locked in a four-month battle with the company, after he filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General and a dispute with his credit card company.

Ultimately, he learned that most of the time once you sign, you're stuck. Indianapolis Singles responded to his complaints, saying the contract clearly states it cannot be cancelled.

"I noticed, but I was under the impression that in Indiana you could cancel," Sermersheim said.

Indiana does have several laws on the books that give you a sort of contract "cooling off period," in most cases three days to cancel. Those laws don't apply to every contract, though.

According to the Indiana Attorney General's Office, the three day right to cancel only applies to these types of contracts:

  • Sales that occur in your home or away from a seller's permanent place of business
  • Health spas
  • Credit repair services
  • Timeshares or camping clubs

"A lot of people do not read the contracts that they're signing," IU McKinney School of Law Professor Jennifer Drobac said.

Drobac actually used the three-day cooling off period to cancel a contract herself, years ago.

"Somebody who was going door to door was selling windows," Drobac said. "I used the law that allowed me to cancel the contract."

She had to abide by specific rules in order to do that, and Drobac said that for most contracts, that simply isn't the case.

CBS4 Problem Solvers found that for dating services, where you live may matter, too. Next door to us in Ohio, they do cover dating agencies under their three-day rule, as part of "prepaid entertainment contracts."

"I think the state of Indiana needs to seriously look into this," Sermersheim said.

Sermersheim moved on, but he hasn't quite gotten over his ordeal. The avid photographer and Purdue graduate says he'll look for love elsewhere, and he has some words of wisdom for anyone else who might sign a contract anytime soon.

"My advice to everybody else would be, read all the fine print," Sermersheim said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers wanted to sit down with the Attorney General's Office on this issue, since on its website it says that "many Hoosiers mistakenly believe that they can legally cancel contracts or purchase decisions as long as they do it within three days." Through a spokesperson, the office denied our request.

In the meantime, Drobac said it's important to take the time to read a contract, or run it by a lawyer. She also said you shouldn't be afraid to walk away from a deal you don't fully understand.

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