The Instigator
lukevara
Pro (for)
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The Contender
mattyrose5
Con (against)
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Williams V Walker-Thomas Furniture Co

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/11/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 743 times Debate No: 54490
Debate Rounds (4)
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lukevara

Pro

Williams has done business with Walker- Thomas Furniture Co for four years prior to the incident that the court case speaks of. The Furniture Company has certain provisions and criterion that are to be met upon purchasing and entering a contractual agreement based on payment. The print contract held that the item(s) that were purchased and to be bought through a payment plan were to be considered rented. If for any reason the rent payments did not meet the deadline as aforesaid by the contract, Walker " Thomas Furniture Co had the right to repossess the items and apparently any other items bought from their company regardless if they had been paid for or not. Once the item was fully paid off it was then transferred over to the renters name, which then would become the owner. Williams who at the time had a $218 monthly stipend from the government and was supporting seven children was given a payment plan based on her income. Prior to purchasing the stereo Williams" balance for the Walker- Thomas Furniture Co was set at $168, which was then raised to $678 after the purchase of the $514 stereo. After defaulting on her payment in 1962, the Walker- Thomas Furniture Co sought to repossess every item purchased since 1957. It also is noted that the total of all items cost $1,800 while in reality she paid $14,000 dollars. This means that the interest rates implemented by Walker- Thomas Furniture Co were grossly unfair. The unconscionability of the contract lies within the interest rates as well as the business scheme of Walker- Thomas Furniture Co. Although it may be said to be reasonable for the repossession of the stereo which was defaulted on in a short amount of time, the items that were owed for under the $168 would have already surpassed their original costs due to interest as well as have lost their value on the market. The total amount made off of Williams was up to $14,000 while the original cost was $1,800. It can be seen that Walker- Thomas Furniture Co was making gross profit and by repossessing the items in which were already paid for, or almost fully paid for would be unconscionable. Within this contract the unconscionability doesn"t rest within the words of the contract itself, but instead rests within the meaning or intentions of Walker- Thomas Furniture Co. In order for Walker- Thomas Furniture Co to repossess items from a renter, the item should be unpaid for in its entirety.

1) Before and after the contract was written Williams had no bargaining potential. (493.7.2-3)

2) According to her circumstances, it is presumable that Williams did not have any bargaining ability in the first place. (493.72-3)

3) Without bargaining capabilities and or potential, the contract was one sided from the start.

4) Due to the fact that she had little money to begin with she had to do business with Walker- Thomas Furniture Co in order to work out a payment plan, as opposed to buying outright in another store. (493.2.5-8)

5) Walker- Thomas Furniture Co took advantage of this and thusly created a gross interest rate for Williams. (513, NOTE 1)
6) By implementing such an interest rate under the clauses of its contract, Walker- Thomas Furniture Co would have a high chance of repossession. (513, NOTE 1)

7) Under this repossession clause, items purchased and paid for under interest would still be subject to repossession. (511.1.5)

8) If items are paid for by interest in their own right, they should not be subject to repossession.

Therefor, the contract is unconscionable.
mattyrose5

Con

Walker Thomas Furniture Company was a retail furniture store in the District of Columbia. The company"s business was based off a leasing model that allowed for the eventual possession of the leased item. The terms of each contract were in a written format that put forth the value of the item that was being purchased. Furthermore, conditions for the item were placed under a stipulated monthly rent payment. The contracts also provided (in substance) that the title remains in possession of the company until the total of all the monthly payments are made equal the started value of the item, in which than the title can exchange hands to the buyer. The company wanted to keep a balance due on every item until the balance due on all items was liquidated. As a result, all debt incurred at purchase was secured by the right to repossess all the items previously purchased by the same purchaser, while each new item purchased automatically became subject to a security interest stemming from previous deals. Walker Thomas Furniture was forced to implement such a plan, as the store not only had to account for potential losses but also realize that items always depreciate in a rent business. In Williams v. Walker, the contract is put into question whether or not it was unconscionable. While it was made clear Williams" income, a long line of previous payment history defeats this notion of unsconscionability.

1) Williams made her own decision to deal with Walker-Thomas, hand was never forced.

2) The items she purchased were by choice, and not necessity.

3) Walker-Thomas operated a standard business model and had no obligation to alter terms.

4) Details of terms were written down clearly and without any evasion

5) Therefore the contract is not unconscionable.
Debate Round No. 1
lukevara

Pro

The point being made within my standard form argument is being overlooked by you completely. While you say that it was Williams' choice to purchase the item it has no relevance to the unconscionability of the contract clause. What was meant by my premise is that, due to her financial situation Williams would not have all of the money up front for her newest purchase of the Stereo for $514.95. For this reason she went to Walker-Thomas Furniture Co in order to work out a payment plan. Within the contract itself, it states that any items not paid for in its entirety could be repossessed by the company. The purpose of this model of business that Walker-Thomas Furniture Co has taken on is to ensure that their rentals will not end up in a loss of money. In order to relinquish the chance of losing money the company itself set up a clause in order to maintain profit. Seeing as though the bargaining ability and or power of Williams in the first place was low, or non-existent, the Walker-Thomas Furniture Co could have and did take advantage of their interest capabilities. The point I was trying to stress is that the contract manages to find itself in the realm of unconscionable because of this clause. The items purchased and then paid for through a set plan would ensure a way for the Walker-Thomas Furniture Co to get its money back, but by holding the consumer to such a gross amount of interest knowing that she had limited to no options in going elsewhere to buy the stereo was something the company capitalized on. By placing such a high amount of interest on the item, the item would be paid for within weeks of the original rental time. This would mean that the company would be knowingly ripping off Williams even with the knowledge of her financial situation. If the item is paid for by interest alone it should be not be considered repossess-able. This would entail that all items purchased before 1962 or anything other than the stereo itself could not be repossessed. The remaining balance left of Williams' bill was $168 which was presumably the cost of interest left from previously purchased items. The items considered to be part of the $168 should be paid for by interest and not be repossessed.,
mattyrose5

Con

You say that the company"s intention was to knowingly rip off Williams with knowledge of her financial situation. However, based off past successful dealings with Williams, it naturally would make sense for payments to continue to come in. Furthermore, Walker Thomas Furniture has an obligation to prevent and account for loss. Whether or not these interest rates are high is not necessarily an important point; the interest rates are high because of the guaranteed depreciation of value of goods that are rented. Walker Thomas must take into account the potential for loss, and it is the buyers discretion to abide and accept the contractual terms. It is not under legal court jurisdiction to dictate business practice, especially when contracts are entered knowingly.
Debate Round No. 2
lukevara

Pro

Again, my point is overlooked completely. You might as well be a Pikachu with all this evasion. Again I'll reiterate. The interest on the item in Williams' case already had brought in enough revenue to cover the original cost of the item. If this is the case, the business (Walker-Thomas Furniture Co) would just be gouging the funds from Williams. Their money had already been made back and was safely within their bank accounts again. The court cannot dictate what their contracts can include, but it can protect the consumer from price gouging and fraud. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co had already made their money back for all of the original items through interest, so repossessing the items would just be theft at that point. Taking back things from a customer thats already paid for is not only unethical, its also a crime which is punishable by the jurisdiction of the law. So again what you're saying is not exactly making sense. Again, my original problem is not with the contract in its entirety, its the fact that the clause allows for the Walker-Thomas Furniture Co to exceed their insurance amount (meaning that they can take more than what the item actually costs and would have been sold for).
mattyrose5

Con

You fail to mention the fact that these interests rates were paid over a course of years, and not within a short amount of time. This "theft" you speak of is non-existant, as Williams already had direct knowledge of the rates of interests, as she has made purchases before. She made her own decision to add on to her debt already, well aware that she did not have the means to pay for them. It is not Walker Thomas Furniture CO. job to play detective as to how she could pay for this new item, especially because they did not force or coerce a purchase.
Debate Round No. 3
lukevara

Pro

You're speaking now in regard to the stereo piece and I'm not. She might not have had the funds to pay for the stereo on its own, but she most certainly payed back the amount for the prior items through interest. It states clearly that the previous item costs summed up to $1,800 and Williams managed to pay $14,000 in interest. This is grossly unwarranted as the items bought before the stereo would have already been paid off. I'm arguing that the past items should not be repossessed not her stereo that she ever so quickly defaulted on and could not have possibly paid off its worth in interest. So again, nothing you've said here is defending the clause of the contract in which I'm calling unconscionable. The fact that you dance around the specific point I have made leads me to believe that you as well understand the clause within the contract is unconscionable. For the reasons listed above i feel as though the items possessed and paid for through interest prior to the stereo set should not be repossessed and ultimately be allowed to keep in favor of Mrs. Williams.
mattyrose5

Con

At the end of the day, these interest rates were tacked on for an item that was not owned by Williams. I do not dance around the topic, simply because it was well known on previous occasions the rates of interest to be incurred.
Debate Round No. 4
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