Mandatory binding arbitration, or what some call “forced arbitration,” is ubiquitous in many industries, according to a study released by Public Citizen. The organization found in the study that 75% of companies in eight industries use forced arbitration. Congress is presently trying to determine whether mandatory binding arbitration is fair or voluntary. That shouldn’t be too hard to figure out and I have to wonder why it’s taking Congress so long.
As we have reported on many occasions, consumers are stripped of their right to go to court over disputes when they open a bank or credit card account, obtain cell phone service, hire a stockbroker or buy a house. The same is true about half of the time when consumers buy computers or obtain cable or Internet service. Arbitration is commonplace in the purchase of automobiles and trucks.
The study, Forced Arbitration: Unfair and Everywhere, is based on inquiries of major credit card providers, banks, cell phone providers, computer manufacturers, cable/Internet providers, auto dealers, brokerages and home builders. The majority of data in the report was obtained by Public Citizen researchers inquiring as consumers about businesses’ arbitration policies. David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, observed:
Even though forced arbitration has been exposed as grossly unfair to consumers, the practice remains ubiquitous in many industries. This means that millions of Americans have been stripped of their right to hold corporations accountable in court.
Forced arbitration requires consumers to settle disputes before secretive, private tribunals instead of courts. Consumer advocates have long said that forced arbitration is unfair because it undermines corporate accountability and deprives people of core protections against corporate wrongdoing. Americans believe they should have the right to legal recourse – including a judge, jury and the ability to appeal – and demand that decisions be based on law, according to recent polling conducted by Lake Research Group. The same poll also found that a majority of Americans – six in ten – oppose forced arbitration.
The continued use of forced arbitration coupled with overwhelming evidence of the processes’ unfairness points to the need for Congress to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act, which would prohibit businesses from forcing arbitration on consumers and employees. The LakeResearch public opinion polling showed that Americans support the Arbitration Fairness Act by a margin of more than two-to-one, including majorities of men and women, as well as Democrats, independents and Republicans. If you agree that forced arbitration that is binding on consumers is unfair, let the members of Congress know how you feel and ask them to support the Arbitration Fairness Act.
Source: Public Citizen
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