Why the Font Size You Use in Your Contract Matters

Person signing a contract to indicate using a good font size.The font size used in your company’s underlying agreements with other businesses can directly impact the success of your debt collection case. But what happens if the font size you use in your contract is a bit too small?

Well, if all goes well and your customers pay, you should be okay. But, what if the customer fails to pay and you need to pursue litigation, arbitration or mediation?

Then the subject of your mighty small print may become more than just an issue.

Why Font Size Matters

New York courts have invalidated contracts and decided against creditors whose B2B contracts feature tiny fonts, Small fonts make it almost impossible for a customer or client to read the contract, let alone agree to the terms of the contract.

New York courts require a specific font size for the summons and complaint. They also have rules regarding margins and more. The “Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 2101” provides: 

Form of papers. (a) Quality, size and legibility. Each paper served or filed shall be durable, white and, except for summonses, subpoenas, notices of appearance, notes of issue, orders of protection, temporary orders of protection and exhibits, shall be eleven by eight and one-half inches in size. The writing shall be legible and in black ink. Beneath each signature shall be printed the name signed. The letters in the summons shall be in clear type of no less than twelve-point in size. Each other printed or typed paper served or filed, except an exhibit, shall be in clear type of no less than ten-point in size.

Though the court has rules regarding the minimum font size used in pleadings, it does not specify the minimum print size in agreements or contracts.

How Too Small Font Can Hurt Your Debt Collection Case

The lack of a formal rule has hurt some creditors in New York debt collection cases. Because the font size used was too small, some creditors have lost their ability to enforce the underlying contract.

In some of those situations, the small printed agreements were designed to be one-sided and filled with onerous terms hidden in hard to read text. One can only assume that the creditors’ goal was to have their clients sign the unfair contracts without reading them and/or giving them a cursory review.

When these types of agreements were presented to the New York state court, the court refused to uphold the agreements. This left creditors without a way to collect any monies due and owing to them.

Without guidance from the New York courts as to the minimum font required for B2B agreements to be enforceable in New York, what should you do?

Our suggestion is to print all agreements so the font is 12-point in size. This matches the requirement for New York pleading and attachments, riders, exhibits, guarantees, and any other writings.

For more debt collection best practices, contact Frank, Frank, Goldstein and Nager for a consultation.

1 thought on “Why the Font Size You Use in Your Contract Matters”

  1. Jocelyn:

    One other point to consider: For certain consumer (not B2B) contracts, CPLR 4544 renders inadmissible any portions of a contract that are in small print (as defined in that section). It’s an evidentiary rule.

    CPLR 4544 is near and dear to my heart, because about three and a half decades ago, I won my first solo trial on the basis of this provision in a case involving the return of the full $25K deposit (a heck of a lot of money back in the day) that my client placed with the venue for his daughter’s wedding, which was broken off several months before the scheduled date. The provisions on the reverse side relating to the amounts of the deposit that the caterer could keep at various timing milestones were set out in fine print. I had a professional printer testify, and won the case on the spot! I was one very happy newbie lawyer. And my client received the return of his entire deposit. The lawyer representing the catering industry immediately had their form contracts redone, to comply with CPLR 4544. It was the first catering contract case that he’d ever lost.

    I recognize that most of the matters with which you deal are B2B (as are all of my cases ever since then), but I thought it was sufficiently related to merit mention.



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