Standing Up To Mandatory Arbitration Clauses
October 9th, 2015
An interesting article recently in Consumer Reports talks about the issue of 'Mandatory Arbitration' clauses that consumers are forced to sign regardless of whether they are even aware that they are agreeing to them.
What exactly is a 'Mandatory Arbitration' clause?
Simply put, if you have agreed to accept mandatory arbitration then you have agreed that if you have a legal dispute with a company or organization about a product or service, you have essentially given up your right to take that company or organization to court – and instead have agreed to have your dispute resolved by an arbitrator (a negotiator of sorts who may, or may not have a legal background) instead of a judge or a jury.
The ramifications of such a choice can be enormous as you no longer have the power of an attorney or the power of the legal system at your disposal.
The problem is that 'Mandatory Arbitration' clauses are embedded in virtually everything you sign, click to agree on, and even download. The issue recently came to head when General Mills forced people to click on an "I agree" tab in order to download coupons.
The ramification of clicking the “I agree” tab was that consumers automatically agreed to mandatory arbitration and lost their right to sue in court if there was an issue that may have created a legal action – such as mislabeled ingredients or something similar to that.
According to the recent Consumer Reports story, mandatory arbitration clause have become so common-place that they are now in millions of consumer agreements, which is something that really concerns all of us here at Howard Law, PC.
"Mandatory arbitration agreements are everywhere, and the fact that people cannot ‘opt-out’ of these agreements is unacceptable," says Vincent D. Howard of Howard law, PC. "They are in virtually everything we sign, from cell phone contracts, to credit cards, to employment contracts. Buy anything on line and at some point you will have to click on an “I accept these terms" button – which most likely means that you have just given up your right to take legal action if you have a problem down the road."
Consumer Reports also points out other important facts. "Arbitrators aren’t required to have a legal background and don’t have to consider legal precedent in their decision, whereas a court of law would. So even though a company’s actions might not meet legal requirements, the company won’t necessarily be held responsible for that. Furthermore, forced arbitration is often binding and sealed, meaning that what the arbitrator says, goes, and no one else will know the outcome, including other consumers in the same position."
It's really time for all of us to stand up and prevent mandatory arbitration clauses from being forced down our throats every time we sign something or click on something.
Fortunately, there has been some movement to support people who feel as though they are being hurt by 'Mandatory Arbitration'. If you feel as though you have given up your legal rights – please call us right away – Howard Law, PC is here to help you.
Call or contact us today at 1-800-872-5925