> I'm not a lawyer, but there's a big difference between an ad and a contract.
> A contract requires consideration: both parties must exchange something real for the contract to be valid.
> But an ad has no consideration (beyond wasting your time, etc.)... it's a 1-way offer.
The classic test for a contract is that a contract requires:
Consideration (deliver, pay or exchange, etc)*
You said "an ad has no consideration (beyond wasting your time, etc.)... it's a 1-way offer". Right, the ad is the offer.
When you walk into the store, point to the sign, and say "I'll take that plan", that's the acceptance.
When you pay the bill, that's exchange of consideration.
Offer, acceptance, exchange of consideration. The ad is the "offer" part of the contract. If you accept the offer that's in the ad and you pay, without anything else happening, that's a contract.
Of course something else normally does happen before you pay (consideration). The provider normally whips out the FULL offer, the 12-page "contract" document. THAT is in effect a second offer, which you accept by signing and exchange consideration by paying. If the provider failed to present you with the 12-page contract offer, the ad would be only written part of the contract.
* Consideration has partly gone out the window as courts have ruled that SAYING you'll pay or deliver counts. Well the ad SAYS they'll deliver unlimited data. Part of accepting is saying "okay, I'll pay $35 for unlimited data", so there ya go. You're left with offer and acceptance, with no real exchange of actual consideration required.