Nestled deep in the text of the lengthy contracts for most credit cards and bank accounts are little clauses that not only prohibit harmed customers from suing their bank or card issuer, but also prevents them from banding together with similarly injured consumers to argue their dispute as a group. In October, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced it would consider limits on these clauses, but now the banking industry is trying to use its leverage with D.C. lawmakers to shut down that process. [More]
Consumerist’s first post on the subject of arbitration, back in 2007, described a dispute that was ultimately resolved in the consumer’s favor. Since then, we’ve been against the practice, pointing out when popular companies change their terms of service to add arbitration clauses. It doesn’t matter, though, because arbitration can save companies so much money that they don’t especially care what we think. Sometimes. [More]
Court Sides With Consumer In Suit Against Retailer That Charges $250 When Customers Threaten To Complain
Last summer, a consumer in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against online retailer Accessory Outlet over what she called a bogus $250 fine the company imposed, claiming she breached the terms of sale when she threatened to have the charge canceled after the iPhone case she ordered never shipped. Today, a New York court sided with the consumer by granting a default judgement in the case, essentially agreeing that Accessory Outlet’s “terms of sale” and the debt it alleged the woman owed were void. [More]
In just the last four years, the U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled against consumers’ rights and in favor of companies that use fine print in their contracts to block wronged customers from suing in court and from joining together as a class action. In spite of these rulings, the Federal Trade Commission recently upheld rules that give warranty buyers the right to a day in court, even if they have to go through arbitration first. [More]
A month after legislation was introduced to eliminate mandatory arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, civil rights and antitrust cases, a coalition of 58 lawmakers and several consumer advocate groups are urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to take things a step further by protecting consumers from forced arbitration clauses in financial services contracts. [More]
Companies have been taking away your right to sue them when they screw up for years, using small, hidden clauses to require mandatory binding arbitration instead. After years of consumer groups voicing their concern over this anti-consumer practice, there’s finally a new bill in congress that proposes to bring back your right to sue.
Just weeks after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report showing that tens of millions of Americans have clauses in their credit card, checking account, student loan and wireless phone contracts that take away their rights to sue those companies in a court of law, more than 100 consumer groups have signed a letter urging the Bureau to address the use of forced arbitration clauses by issuing rules forbidding the clauses. [More]
In a handful of recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the right of businesses to effectively break the law by putting a few carefully worded sentences into their contracts and user agreements. But just because you can add these clauses doesn’t mean you have to do so, which is why pro-consumer advocacy groups gathered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition that was delivered, with a little bit of music, to Citigroup HQ in Manhattan this morning. [More]
If you were put off by KlearGear.com’s ridiculous “Non-Disparagement” fee, which penalizes customers for sharing their bad shopping experiences with the public, another online retailer is apparently trying to go one further, by not only banning customers from saying bad things online, but by also forbidding them from even bringing up the threat of a complaint or a credit card chargeback. [More]
Back in January, at the dawn of the year, we gazed into our not-quite-crystal ball and took a look at some pieces of pending legislation that could help consumers this year. Now, in July, we’re at the halfway point of the year, and so it’s a good time to take a look at those bills and see how the wheels of government have turned in 2014.
2013 is gone, a collection of memories never to be dealt with again. Next week, the 113th Congress returns for its second session, ideally to enact legislation throughout 2014, some of which could help consumers if they were to become law. [More]
I know, I know… lots of you hear a phrase like “mandatory binding arbitration” and your eyes gloss over and your mind drifts off like it did when your high school history teacher tried to teach you about the Monroe Doctrine or the Teapot Dome scandal. And that’s exactly how companies like Comcast — and AT&T, Time Warner Cable, American Express, Sony, Microsoft, eBay, and many, many others want you to react. But here’s a decent example of why you should give a hoot about having your rights taken away by a few words in a contract you can’t possibly alter. [More]
We at Consumerist have crusaded against the evils of mandatory binding arbitration for most of the last decade. Companies love it, though, because it means we can’t sue them. TiVo is only the latest company to insert language requiring customers to use arbitration and give up their right to sue. You can opt out of that provision, though, if you want to. [More]
Among the other controversial changes to Instagram’s Terms of Service is a spanking new forced-arbitration clause that, as things do, effectively takes away consumers’ rights to band together in a class-action against the company. Thankfully, you can opt out of the clause in writing before Feb. 15, 2013. [More]
Credit card companies scored a win yesterday, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that credit card claims by consumers must go to arbitration, instead of being tried in a court room. The ruling overturned one made by a U.S. appeals court in San Francisco that had said the Credit Card Repair Organizations Act was meant to bar arbitration.
Here’s a live webcast of the judiciary committee’s hearing on mandatory binding arbitration going on right now. The title of the hearing is “Arbitration: Is it Fair When Forced?” Arbitration clauses appear in all sorts of consumer contracts and they mandate that in order to use the product or service, you have to agree to give up your right to sue if anything goes wrong. Originally designed for businesses to expedite disputes with other businesses, binding arbitration clauses are now also a popular way for companies to strip consumers of their basic legal rights. Since the hearing is chaired by Senator Al Franken, you know there’s bound to be some good zingers. Pop the popcorn and sit back!
Here’s something neat. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision/Optimum actually let customers opt out of arbitration when they sign up. If you don’t want to give up your right to personally sue them in a court of law and be forced into a kangaroo court overseen by a judge whose fees are paid for by the company you’re suing, Cablevision will let you. The caveat is that you have to tell them within 30 days of signing your contract. Here’s the links and relevant contract language to opt-out:
When you buy a new cellphone you have to sign a contract where you give up your right to sue. You agree to what’s called, “mandatory binding arbitration.” This is a bad thing to give to an industry that has high levels of complaints about hidden fees and abusive anti-consumer practices. Because if their crummy customer service fails to remedy an issue, your last resort option is to participate in a kangaroo court system that is paid for out of fees paid by the cellphone companies themselves. So Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN) have today introduced The Consumer Mobile Fairness Act that would ban mandatory arbitration clauses in cellphone contracts.