April 14, 2016

Public Citizen Applauds House Progressives for Speaking Out Against Forced Arbitration

Statement of Sonia Gill, Counsel for Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division

Note: Today, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to speak about the harm of forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts.

Public Citizen applauds members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) for taking a strong stand today against forced arbitration. The speeches, organized by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and the CPC, focused on what has become an epidemic of corporations literally blocking people from seeking justice in a court of law when victimized by illegal or even dangerous corporate behavior.

Forced arbitration is a con that forces people to give up their rights in exchange for the ability to participate in the modern American marketplace. Lawbreaking corporations should not simply be able to say “no thanks” to civil liability by sneaking forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of everyday terms of service.

Arbitration often results in secretive proceedings, shielding important evidence and decisions from public view. In addition, it leaves regulators, law enforcement authorities and consumers in the dark about a company’s misdeeds. Forced arbitration is, fundamentally, a rigged process that renders constitutional and statutory protections meaningless.

Recent legislation, including this week’s introduction of the House companion to the Restoring Statutory Rights Act – as well as actions by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses – show that the tide is finally turning against this form of corporate abuse.