The seventh amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants Americans the right to a trial by jury if they are seeking compensation in a civil matter. However, the Federal Arbitration Act has created the opportunity to settle disputes through other means instead. A process of arbitration can include different methods of settling a dispute, but they are often quicker than a full trial, making them a preferable option in some cases. However, many companies are now forcing unsuspecting consumers to settle disputes through arbitration, denying them the right to a jury trial and the right to a class action suits.
By hiding forced arbitration clauses in their contracts, companies require that consumers and employees sign away their right to a trial, often without even knowing what they’re doing. This affects those who would seek out compensation for defective products, dishonest billing actions, employment law violations, and other concerns. In many of these situations, class action suits can save time and provide compensation to multiple victims of an issue, but a forced arbitration clause removes the ability to pursue a class action suit, even if the plaintiffs can prove that it is economically impossible to pursue each claim individually through arbitration.
This alarming trend has been sweeping through a wide range of companies, from home-builders to nursing homes and electronic manufacturers. However, there are those who are fighting back for consumer’s rights. Dozens of organizations like the American Association for Justice, National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) have banded together to form the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition. This organization is actively seeking to create legislation that protects consumers from forced arbitration.
In an important piece of legislation, the Fair Play and Safe Workplaces executive order was signed into practice on July 31, 2014, which included a provision that bars employers from forcing workers into arbitration over workplace discrimination, sexual assault, and sexual harassment claims. Currently, this only applies to companies with over $1 million in federal contracts, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
In conjunction with organizations that are pushing for more of this legislation, consumers can contribute by educating themselves on the issue and making their voices heard when possible. In many situations, such as shopping for an internet provider, forced arbitration clauses are so widespread that they are impossible to avoid, but even closely examining a contract before signing it and spreading the word about this important concern can help advance the fight against forced arbitration clauses.
Companies that currently employ forced arbitration clauses in their terms of service include:
- Cable and internet providers, such as Direct TV, Time Warner, and Comcast
- Phone companies, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile
- Banks such as Wells Fargo, Regions, and Chase
- Credit Cards, including Discover and American Express
- Electronics companies, such as Sony, Dell, Toshiba, and Microsoft
- Employers such as Macy’s, Forever 21, Hobby Lobby, and Dillard’s
- Services such as Ticketmaster, Netflix, hulu, eBay, Dropbox, and Paypal
- Barnes & Noble
Those who have found themselves trapped in a forced arbitration clause may be able to turn to an attorney for guidance. The lawyers of Liggett Law Group aid those facing a wide range of personal injury matters, and they stand with consumers against forced arbitration clauses.