VT Consumer Protection Bill
Vermont Ski Areas Urge Scott To
Veto Consumer Protection Bill
Hirschfeld • 15 hours ago
The association that represents Vermont ski areas says a
consumer protection bill passed by lawmakers this session would hurt the
outdoor recreation industry. Backers of the legislation say it will protect
Vermonters from unfair contract practices
Keck / VPR
lawmakers Tuesday gave final approval to a first-in-the-nation consumer
protection bill, but critics say the legislation could severely disrupt the
state’s outdoor recreation industry.
for this story will be posted.
know all that fine print you have to sign off on when you buy a ski pass? The
legalese you’ve probably never even bothered to read?
Ski Areas Association President Molly Mahar says there’s a good reason it’s
very helpful for us if we have a document that someone has signed acknowledging
the inherent risks,” Mahar says.
Mahar says because it can limit the amount of financial liability a ski area
faces if someone gets hurt on the slopes.
according to Mahar, legislation approved by the Vermont Legislature on Tuesday
would put a serious dent in those legal safeguards, by changing the law that
governs certain contract provisions.
means that it's going to be difficult for us to get liability insurance. It's
going to drive the cost of liability insurance up." — Molly Mahar, Vermont
Ski Areas Association
that the legislation, called S.105, has won final passage in the Statehouse,
Mahar has a clear message for Gov. Phil Scott.
this bill,” Mahar says. “This threatens the recreation industry by completely
undermining all the basic principles of recreation law.”
Rep. Selene Colburn has a different request of Scott.
the governor to stand with working Vermonters and sign 105,” Colburn says.
says the bill will protect people from all manner of unfair contract practices
in all sorts of different legal arenas.
County Sen. Jeannette White offered up a real-life example of the kind of
employment contract the legislation would prohibit.
have a sexual harassment complaint, you have six hours to report it from the
time it happened. You have two minutes to give a deposition. You have to go to
Nevada to press your case,” White says.
legislation discourages these kinds of terms by creating something called a
“presumption of unconscionability” for certain contract provisions.
is a term of art the legal world and refers to something so unjust or unfair
that no reasonable person would willingly agree to it. A contract in which
someone waives the statute of limitations to file a claim, for instance, would
be presumed to be unconscionable under the legislation.
says there's a reason many corporations use these sorts of provisions.
to silence consumers, workers and victims to who enter into these contracts on
a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” Colburn says.
areas, however, aren’t the only ones concerned about the bill. The
organization that puts on the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, for example,
and Special Olympics Vermont, have also cautioned lawmakers against the
the bill to go into law and Mahar says the recreation industry could suddenly
find itself on shaky ground.
means that it’s going to be difficult for us to get liability insurance. It’s
going to drive the cost of liability insurance up,” Mahar says.
governor’s legal counsel, Jaye Pershing Johnson, says the legislation could have
a similarly disruptive impact on tech industries that offer low-cost software
products, or local non-profits trying to provide recreational amenities.
you’re a YMCA with a pool, you know, you’re going to have somebody sign that
waiver of claims,” Johnson says.
says the courts already have the latitude to decide whether a contract term is
unconscionable. And she says they regularly do.
however, says that consumers assume that once they sign these contracts,
they’ve waived their right to file legitimate claims.
face of such terms, most working people simply abandon their claims,” Colburn
attributes concern over the bill to “misinformation” about its contents. And
backers of the legislation say it leaves untouched an existing statute that
deals with "inherent risk."
law, according to Wells River Rep. Chip Conquest, says that "anyone who
takes part in any sport in Vermont assumes as a matter of law the risks
inherent in that sport.”
Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, who tried to rally opposition against the bill in
the Vermont House, says she considered the legislation “a significant gift to
the trial attorneys in the state of Vermont.”
would be the first state in the nation to enact the language in the legislation,
and Johnson says that makes the bill even more problematic.
says the governor has not decided yet whether he’ll veto the bill, or allow it
to go into law.