Chamber of Commerce Retreats From Discussion With Public Citizen Over Anti-Consumer Class Action Bill

June 16, 2004

Chamber of Commerce Retreats From Discussion With Public Citizen Over Anti-Consumer Class Action Bill

Chamber President Donohue Accepted Invitation, Then Backed Out

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has changed its mind about participating in a discussion in front of reporters with Public Citizen about a radical, anti-consumer overhaul of the class action system that the Chamber is trying to push through Congress.

The measure, which is likely to come to a vote soon in the U.S. Senate, would dramatically curtail the rights of consumers to pursue state-law class action claims by shifting most of them to federal courts, which in many instances are far less advantageous for consumers.

Because the legislation is so significant, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook in March invited Chamber President Tom Donohue to a debate in front of the national press. The idea was to bring together the heads of two organizations with a great interest and activity in the issue, and to exchange views to help journalists better understand the reasons for supporting or opposing bill.

A tentative date had been set in mid-June that was apparently good for both Donohue and Claybrook. Later, though, the Chamber’s staff canceled with no explanation.

“It is very telling that the Chamber, which is vigorously working behind the scenes to push this radical measure, refuses to discuss the pros and cons in front of the national press,” Claybrook said. “What does the Chamber fear? If Tom Donohue backs this bill, he owes the public an explanation as to why.”

Class actions help enforce consumer protection, civil rights, health, safety and environmental laws and protect consumers from fraudulent or abusive corporate behavior, but under the bill, the improperly named “Class Action Fairness Act” (S. 2062), consumers will be at a significant disadvantage. For more information about the bill, click here. To access Public Citizen’s letter to Donohue, click here.

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