Congress Rejects Ban on Arbitration Agreements

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, certain business advocates continue to insist that arbitration bans hurt individual consumers and employees more than they help them. They are not bothered by the facts, such as:

  1. Arbitration does not allow multiple plaintiffs to combine their claims into a class action or collective action. This effectively blocks consumer lawsuits from ever seeing the light of day because an individual’s claims are often smaller than the cost of filing a lawsuit or pursuing the dispute in arbitration.
  2. There is no explanation for why an arbitrator ruled the way they did and no opportunity to appeal the decision.
  3. The arbitration process is kept private, which means the results, and even a customer filing for relief for a complaint, are never made public. The transparent nature of the courts is an inherent ingredient to justice and accountability. By keeping all the proceedings private, other consumers with identical or similar complaints will not even know that they have a valid complaint.
  4. Arbitration is not always neutral. While some arbitrators have a good reputation for neutrality, others are less trustworthy, and many arbitration clauses give the company the power to choose the arbitrator. Because arbitration is a business, many arbitrators tend to be tempted to rule in favor of the side that brings them a lot of business.

Despite all these facts, and extensive research conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) showing how arbitration clauses harmed consumers, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both voted to overturn a CFPB rule that would prohibit banks from putting arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts.

An arbitration clause is a section of a contract that states that any legal dispute between the parties will be settle via arbitration, rather than the courts. Although arbitration was initially set up for disputes between businesses, companies have increasingly forced individuals into arbitration in order to escape accountability, and Republicans have repeatedly allowed them to do so. Republicans and Big Business advocates repeatedly point out that individuals who successfully file a claim in arbitration receive larger awards than in the courts, while blatantly ignoring the facts regarding the many, many more claims that never get a hearing at all as a result of forced arbitration.

Nevertheless, two Senate Republicans voted to uphold the CFPB rule, with Mike Pence casting the tie breaking vote to overturn the rule.

The White House issued a statement in favor of the Congressional decision, upholding the party line that the rule hurts consumers, rather than protecting them. Republicans continue to deny all the evidence that forced arbitration clauses hurt consumers, despite the CFPB’s extensive, nonpartisan investigation of the issue, which found that arbitration puts consumers at a huge disadvantage against companies like the banks that lobbied to overturn the CFPB’s rule.

Democrats, on the other hand, called the overturning of the CFPB rule a win for Wall Street and a loss for everyday consumers, even as the White House simultaneously claimed it was a win for everyday consumers.

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