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8 Aug 2016

Joe Valenti, Center for American Progress (USA)

Commentary: Arbitration clauses are a barrier to access to justice for consumers

"The Case Against Mandatory Consumer Arbitration Clauses", 2 Aug 2016

...[A] technological glitch left more than 132,000 RushCard users separated for days from the money in their accounts...[M]any people were ultimately unable to pay their bills or day-to-day expenses until the problem was resolved. In response, users might be expected to sue. Even if individual victims did not choose to sue because of the costs involved, an attorney might file a class action lawsuit to represent thousands of wronged consumers...When large numbers of people are wronged...class action lawsuits are one way to resolve claims and punish wrongdoing. If a class action is successfully resolved in favor of the victims...it can have two beneficial effects...[I]t provides financial relief to the victims [and] the threat of a significant monetary penalty may also incentivize changes in behavior....Proponents of arbitration have argued that it...can adequately execute individuals’ legal rights and ensure that they effectively have access to justice in response to wrongdoing...[I]n cases where the two parties may not be on equal footing, using arbitration to effectively vindicate consumers’ rights is more challenging. To be effective, arbitration needs to be both cost-effective and accessible...At a minimum, mandatory arbitration clauses may dissuade victims from pursuing claims...