You may or may not know about forced arbitration clauses that are deliberately buried in the fine print of contracts or agreements that we all sign. Recently, The New York Times published a three part investigative series on forced arbitration entitled “Beware The Fine Print.”
It has been made virtually impossible to obtain such everyday things as- a credit card, a cellphone and service, Internet service, cable service, a car rental, or even a checking account- without first signing a contract or agreement that contains a mandatory arbitration requirement. By inserting arbitration clauses into consumer contracts, companies block people from being able to go to court to address, before a jury of their peers, the wrong done to them by a corporation. It also bars people from joining together in a class action in order to address wrongful conduct by the corporation.
Corporations use arbitration to create an alternate system of supposed justice- one that favors corporations. For example, the arbitrator determines how much evidence a plaintiff can present and how much evidence the corporation can withhold. The Rules of Evidence do not apply, as they do in Court, nor do the strict judicial rules against conflict of interest. Arbitrators can and often do disregard the law. Finally, unlike in Court, there is no right of appeal of an unjust decision in Arbitration.
Denying you the ability to bring a civil lawsuit is a violation of your constitutionally guaranteed right of access to the courts- to have your day in court. Bills (H.R. 2087 and S. 1133) have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, entitled the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015, which would eliminate corporations’ ability to usurp our constitutional rights in employment, consumer, civil rights and antitrust cases.
The American Association For Justice, of which the Terrell • Hogan attorneys are members of, through its program Take Justice Back, has been working to eliminate mandatory, forced arbitration. You can add your name to the petition telling Congress it should restore consumers’ rights by passing the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015. You can also alert your friends and family to this opportunity by posting this link on Facebook or by email or in person.
Editorial: Small-print ‘terms & conditions’ are big problem for consumers