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Finding religion in the fine print

The Week Staff

Here are three of the week's top pieces of business insight, gathered from around the web:

Finding religion in the fine print
"How did God make it into millions of consumer contracts?" asked David Lazarus at the Los Angeles Times. Consider the one-year extended warranty offered by the eyewear chain LensCrafters. It excludes "'damage from abuse' as well as damage from 'fire, collision, vandalism, theft, etc.'" But apparently that's not enough: It also exempts damage resulting from "acts of God." That would seem to include, "well, everything." The roots of this clause can be traced as far back as a property-related case decided by an English court in 1581, which ruled that an "act of God" — a death — made the deal in question "null and void." In recent years, it has evolved into "legal shorthand for unanticipated events beyond human control." But according to one legal scholar, "there's a reluctance to use a different phrase" because that one "has come to be well understood."

A bust in crowdfunded real estate
Real-estate crowdfunding has struggled to live up to its hype, said Konrad Putzier at The Wall Street Journal. After bursting onto the scene a decade ago boasting they would "transform real-estate investing the way Amazon changed retail," several of the original crowdfunding real estate firms have gone out of business. The idea was that investors could buy "stakes as small as a few thousand dollars in commercial property." As the economy rebounded, however, "developers suddenly had plenty of cheap funding choices," leaving crowdfunders to pick up "riskier projects." The remaining firms are now courting wealthier customers, increasingly resembling the vehicles, such as real-estate investment trusts, they were aiming to disrupt.

Higher fees for ultrapremium cards
"The Chase Sapphire Reserve card is about to get more expensive," said Michelle Davis and Jennifer Surane at Bloomberg. Chase is bumping up its annual fee on its super-high-end card to $550 from $450 "as it adds new perks" like a $120 credit for DoorDash deliveries and a free year of Lyft's membership program. While many card issuers have been scaling back perks, Chase is "targeting services that are surging in popularity." It has found, for instance, that customers "doubled their spending on food-delivery services in the past year," and most Sapphire Reserve customers "use ride-hailing apps at least once a week." The price hike "follows a move by rival American Express," which raised the fee on its platinum card to $550 in 2017 "after adding benefits such as a $200 annual Uber credit."

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