Legal, Laws, and Regs

Binding Mandatory Arbitration: A report by Public Citizen

I phoned into the news conference today publicizing the release of Public Citizen’s report on Binding Mandatory Arbitration, but had such bad reception I finally had to hang up. However, I don’t need the press conference–all I needed was the report and what a report it is.

I’ve read a lot of the horror stories on mandatory arbitration clauses hidden into contracts, but wasn’t that aware of how widespread these have become. If you have a cellphone, you’ve agreed to binding mandatory arbitration; ditto for having cable, satellite, buying a new home, car, or computer. Getting a new job, going to the doctor, even just having a name, because you could end up in arbitration on nothing more than a case of mistaken identity. Arbitration doesn’t have the same requirements as a court, so the companies don’t have to verify you’ve been informed of the proceedings, or even given a chance to participate. You could lose an arbitration case, and only find out afterwards that someone stole your name and credit card to run up charges.

The report also has statistics, as well as a good history of what happened in the Supreme Court over the last few decades to get us into this mess.

As reported in this ABC News Report the arbitration companies, who make millions of dollars on arbitration, say it’s all fair and beneficial to the consumer. If this is so, then why hide these arbitration agreements? Why sneak agreements in, in small print? Why not give people a choice of arbitration or court trial? You’ll find that no arbitration company will ever answer these questions. That should be a red flag to all of us.

The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007, which only seeks to eliminate binding mandatory arbitration agreements, has the support of every consumer group in this country, not to mention associations of home owners and other organized groups of consumers.

On the other side, though, are very rich banks, builders, manufacturers, HMOs, and pharmaceutical companies and others who are pouring thousands, hundreds of thousands, of dollars into Congressional pockets. The only reason a Congressional representative will vote against this bill is if they’ve been bought. There’s no good moral, legal, or logical reason not to support the passage of the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007.

Take a few minutes, download the report, read some of the cases, and make sure to check out Appendix A with a description of the history of mandatory arbitration. Then, let your congressperson know you expect them to vote for this bill, or be prepared to explain why they did not.

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