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Saturday, October 31, 2015

NY Times Attacks Adhesive Arbitration Agreements as Defeating Class Actions

Today's article describes the "soaring number of" arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts as the "center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations"" "to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices."

Gee, I thought no longer doing business with companies that displease me was another option that's been working well.

Seriously, class actions seem to me a mixed bag for consumers, especially consumers who don't realize they're being damaged by sometimes-complex "illegal or deceitful business practices," so I'm skeptical of both progressives who say class actions are the only thing protecting us from disaster and businesses who say class actions are a disaster.

I don't believe the Times article cites any data suggesting consumers fare worse in arbitration than in individual (as opposed to class) litigation.

More on arbitration and class actions

Good commentary on the NY Times articles by North Carolina Law Professor Mark Weidemaier

Friday, October 23, 2015

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Criticizes Arbitration Clauses Reducing Class Actions

CFPB Director Richard Cordray said pre-dispute arbitration clauses “are often buried deeply in the fine print of many contracts for consumer financial products and services, such as credit cards and bank accounts. Companies use them, in particular, to block class action lawsuits, providing themselves with a free pass from being held accountable by their customers in the courts. Companies have been able to use these obscure clauses to rig the game against their customers to avoid group lawsuits.”

Alan Kaplinsky responds: “the data in the CFPB’s arbitration study ... demonstrates that most consumers derive no benefit from class action litigation.  The threat of a class action (presumably the ‘leverage’ Director Cordray is referring to) adds nothing but a huge layer of expense in defending these largely meritless lawsuits, benefiting only plaintiffs’ attorneys.”