Forced arbitration clauses compel people to bring disputes in secretive, private forums instead of in an open court. They have become ever-present in society, and today it is almost impossible for consumers to transact business or workers to find a job without signing away their right to their day in court. You’ll find forced arbitration clauses in cell phone, credit card, student loan and even nursing home contracts.
Forced arbitration clauses are written into the fine print of contracts that people do not understand and cannot negotiate. They swing the balance of power to corporations — preventing consumers, workers and small businesses from getting the justice they deserve.
Just a few companies that hide clauses in their contracts to escape accountability for defrauding employees and consumers:
Wells Fargo pic.twitter.com/ILXxQkY2Bh
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) August 19, 2019
Arbitrators have an incentive to keep companies happy because they are repeat players. And if a consumer or worker loses in arbitration — and they almost always do — it is extremely difficult to appeal. Moreover, forced arbitration hides systemic corporate wrongdoing, impedes advancement of the law and, most importantly, effectively kills most people’s claims entirely since it doesn’t make financial sense for an individual person to take a claim to arbitration when a company has stolen a relatively small amount from a lot of different people. Many arbitration clauses ban harmed individuals from banding together for a claim, even though they have been harmed in similar ways by the same company. According to The New York Times, one corporate defense lawyer said that the ever-growing use of forced arbitration clauses ensures that a claim against a corporate wrongdoer such as a payday lender “simply goes away.”
One prominent judge has said that “federal district courts are now obliged to enforce what everyone recognizes is a totally coerced waiver of both the right to a jury and the right of access to the courts.”
Forced arbitration gives corporations the ability to tilt the scales of justice in their favor. Think that you can live your life without being forced to sign away your rights? Below is a sample of some of the corporations that presently use, or have in the past used, forced arbitration to immunize themselves from accountability from wrongdoing.
In many cases, companies’ contracts or terms of service which include forced arbitration clauses are publicly available online. In other cases, forced arbitration clauses were revealed through lawsuits. The company and product logos below link to online contracts where they are available and to court documents where they are not.
Forced arbitration clauses are included in many types of contracts: