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April 21, 2009

End Forced Arbitration Now, Groups Tell Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A newly formed coalition is calling on Congress to stand up for employees and consumers and ensure companies are held accountable for misdeeds by passing legislation to end forced arbitration.

The Fair Arbitration Now Coalition’s goal is to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act (H.R. 1020). Participants represent consumers, employees, homeowners, franchise holders and more. They range from Public Citizen, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Association of Justice to the National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Care, Home Owners for Better Building and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

The creation of the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition comes as the big business versus citizen battle heats up on Capitol Hill. Many industry groups are actively lobbying lawmakers, pressing them to allow businesses to continue what many consider a predatory practice.

Forced arbitration clauses are hidden in the fine print of employment, cell phone, credit card, retirement account, home building, nursing home and assisted living contracts, to name a few. Just by taking a job or buying a product or service, individuals are forced to give up their right to go to court if they are harmed by a company. Because the private system of forced arbitration benefits companies and disadvantages consumers and employees, more and more industries are using the tactic of forced arbitration to evade accountability.

“The Arbitration Fairness Act does not seek to eliminate arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution agreed to voluntarily after a dispute arises,” the groups wrote last month in a letter to lawmakers. “Its sole aim is to end the unscrupulous business practice of forcing consumers and employees into biased arbitrations by binding them long before any disputes arise.”

The coalition is also supporting the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (H.R. 1237 and S. 512), which would eliminate mandatory binding arbitration clauses from nursing home contracts.

The Fair Arbitration Now Coalition will hold a press conference and lobby day on Wednesday, April 29, with more than 50 consumers, employees and their representatives, who can speak about the injuries people suffer when they are forced into arbitration in an attempt to hold companies accountable for wrongdoing.

The coalition also has launched a Web site, www.FairArbitrationNow.org, explaining what forced arbitration is, outlining the kinds of contracts in which forced arbitration clauses appear, providing links to news articles and telling stories of arbitration horrors. In addition, a blog keeps readers up-to-date on the latest arbitration news.

READ the letter sent by the groups.



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