Last night my colleague Christine Hines and I hosted an online conversation about one of the most insidious threats facing consumers: forced arbitration clauses.
If you missed the conversation, check it out below:
Many people never think to read the gobs of fine print in contracts for things like cell phones and credit cards, but companies are increasingly using those types of contracts to restrict our access to the justice system.
Forced arbitration clauses prohibit customers from taking a company to court if the company harms them or rips them off. If you want to pursue a claim you’re forced into a private system called arbitration, where the company picks the arbitrator, and the arbitrator doesn’t have to follow the law. Decisions are binding and typically cannot be appealed.
Sounds more like something from a dystopian novel than real life, but forced arbitration clauses have become ubiquitous in all kinds of everyday consumer terms of service.
Fortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) can do something about forced arbitration clauses in financial contracts (like credit cards and bank accounts), and the agency is studying the effects of the clauses right now.
When the results of the study are released we need to be ready to push the CFPB to use its authority to ban these anti-consumer clauses from financial contracts.
As soon as the study comes down we need to be ready to vocally advocate for a ban on forced arbitration. You can bet our opponents, Big Banks and the like, will be out in full force, so we’ll need to be as loud as possible to counteract them.
Kelly Ngo is the online advocacy organizer for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.