Arbitration Mill Sued By San Francisco

A San Francisco attorney has sued the National Arbitration Forum for being biased towards credit companies and ignoring consumer rights.

In 2004, the suit alleges, California resident Elizabeth Marcotte was hit with a $25,0000 award, plus $10,000 in attorneys’ fees, in a credit-card collection case. But Ms. Marcotte allegedly wasn’t notified about the arbitration, because she was served at an old address, even though she had notified the credit-card company of her new address. The NAF awarded the attorneys’ fees without requiring proof that the debt collector actually incurred the fees, according to the suit. Ms. Marcotte wasn’t reached for comment.

In another credit-card collection case, the NAF allegedly entered an award against California resident John Sheakley, without responding to his request to appear at a hearing and explain why he didn’t owe the purported debt to a bank that was a predecessor of FIA Card Services.

NAF is the same company that once decided that a 61-year-old identity theft victim owed $46,000 to a bank she never actually did business with.

San Francisco Sues Provider of Arbitrators [WSJ via U.S. PIRG Consumer Blog]

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  1. These arbitration folks really must have a hard time sleeping.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    I really hope those scumbag companies get what’s coming to them, Arbitration is the greatest enemy of the american consumer today and it’s about time people started getting organized and fighting back.

  3. ShortBus says:

    What’s the status on the Arbitration Fairness Act?

  4. mac-phisto says:

    i’m just surprised that legitimate arbitrators aren’t policing their own here. there are legitimate uses for arbitration & it can be beneficial for both parties provided the foundation of the practice – fair & unbiased mediation that seeks an equitable solution for both sides – exists. absent of that, these are just kangaroo courts.

    but where’s the outrage from the thousands of outstanding, fair mediators that seek to provide a solution for those situations that can be decided outside of court?

  5. Darren W. says:

    Sounds like CA is getting fed up. I hope next they send in Arnold!

  6. Scotus says:

    @ShortBus: According to the WSJ article, it’s not looking good.

    Which isn’t surprising. Considering that just one industry can often manage to kill a bill that would make life difficult for it, imagine what’s going to happen when the lobbyists of every industry that either uses mandatory arbitration or would like to at some point, team up.

    By the time all is said and done, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Arbitration Fairness Act hasn’t been turned into a congressional resolution congratulating corporate America for its efforts to relieve the stress of our overburdened court system.

  7. urban_ninjya says:

    Sweet.. I think it’s great a city is suing to protect the rights of it’s citizen. In the long run it means less citizens will be ripped off and more of the money goes rightfully so into the local economy.

  8. picantel says:

    I have only seen one consumer ever win in arbitration and the company decided to appeal it in court and refused to pay. You have to love the fairness of the system- not.

  9. chartrule says:

    @mac-phisto:

    i think somewhere along the way the big companies twisted the idea of arbitration to their own will

    i am quite certain that there are still arbitrators that help in the way you post ( as in unbiased and helpful )unfortunately they don’t work for the large companies

  10. timmus says:

    Like it or not, for every 1000 consumers that are pissed about the idea of arbitration, there’s 99,900 that wave it off and continue to do business with these companies. Just a sad fact of the effectiveness in corporations getting their way by forcing consumers to cave in (and of course paying off the Congressmen).

    It’s too bad there aren’t any credit card companies that fill the void by building their business on a foundation of fairness, honesty, and good customer service… I’d gladly pay a higher annual fee or a higher rate to support them.

  11. timmus says:

    My comment is not appearing… [reload] [reload] [reload] not there… ok, i’ll post another post and hit Submit, and there it is. Can we get this fixed?

  12. unklegwar says:

    Ironically, if you go back two stories, there’s a big to-do about a shipping price error.
    Yet here we are talking about a “$25,0000 award” (that’s 4 zeros people) Should the consumerist post a story about itself?

  13. kfranklin_drummajor says:

    consumers are being shut out of both options as consumers and access to our public system of justice. this is a travesty and i’m thrilled that san francisco is taking the lead by opposing this.

    the afa is still pending, but big business is working hard to make sure it never happens. we can call obama and clinton and ask them if they’re going to stand up and support it.

    one of the craziest arguments is that binding mandatory arbitration is good for consumers because it allows us to bargain for lower prices. arbitration costs more than going to small claims or getting a public interest attorney! and we’re often defendants in these–a company defrauds or overcharges us, then sends us to collection, which arbitrates their bogus claim in their favor. plus there’s 0 proof that shutting us out of the public courts has reduced the costs of our products and services–prices seem to keep soaring upward.

  14. urban_ninjya says:

    @unklegwar: Maybe it’s a Asian thing. I know the Chinese and Japanese count in increments of 10,000 (pronounced “man” with short ‘a’)

  15. Roycester says:

    There’s a site devoted to exposing arbitration…

    http://www.arbitrationjustice.com

  16. nequam says:

    If people had really good sense, NAF as opposed to AAA would have been included in the Worst Company poll. The NAF is an example of a business-funded arbitration process in which the arbitrators can turn favorable decisions into repeat business. The structure of the AAA is different (arbitrators are chosen jointly and the costs are shared up front). Unfortunately, many readers simply see AAA as the face of arbitration and yank out the unreasoned “ARBITRASHUN IS DA SUXR!” attitude.

    @mac-phisto: Good points, but mediation and arbitration are quit different concepts. Mediators seek compromise; arbitrators choose winner/loser. Arbitration is not meant to be conciliatory the way mediation is. Even non-binding arb differs from mediation in this way. The strength of arbitration (when used in appropriate contexts) is that the arbitrator can do what is fair as opposed to what the law strictly requires.

    All that said, I believe consumer (as opposed to commercial) arbitration is rarely appropriate. And I believe arbitration clauses in adhesion contracts should be unenforceable.

  17. pestie says:

    @mac-phisto: I’m guessing it’s because honest arbitrators are as likely in the real world as the Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I mean, sure, you might find a guy dressed up like one on occasion, but that’s about as close as you’re going to get.

  18. modenastradale says:

    @nequam:I’m not sure I believe AAA is much better. Somewhat better, yes, but I’ve definitely seen AAA arbitrators who practically advertise themselves as beholden to a particular industry.

  19. mac-phisto says:

    @nequam: ahh, yes. excuse the mistake. most of my knowledge of arbitration comes from labor law where arbitrators (in theory) are more like mediators. in reality, the arbitration is often biased from the beginning, damning the possibility of an amicable solution to both parties. so in that respect, they are very similar.

  20. jefffromNY says:

    Shouldn’t the consumers being doing this? I mean, I really that Gavin “any twosome” Nuesome won’t be happy until we are reporting to the Commissar, but this isn’t the city’s job. This is the DOJ and private citizens’ job.

  21. trujunglist says:

    In 2004, the suit alleges, California resident Elizabeth Marcotte was hit with a $25,0000 award, plus $10,000 in attorneys’ fees, in a credit-card collection case. But Ms. Marcotte allegedly wasn’t notified about the arbitration, because she was served at an old address, even though she had notified the credit-card company of her new address. The NAF awarded the attorneys’ fees without requiring proof that the debt collector actually incurred the fees, according to the suit. Ms. Marcotte wasn’t reached for comment.

    Does anyone else find that somewhat awesome or is it just me?

  22. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Roycester:

    Good god. If I take my glasses off it looks more like that site is dedicated to exposing the illuminati-freemason-alien-jewish-bankers conspiracy.