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Public Citizen to PNC: Stop Using Forced Arbitration to Deny Consumer Rights

pnc-deliveryToday I delivered a petition signed by more than 67,000 consumers and activists to PNC Financial’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa.

The petition calls on PNC to remove the forced arbitration clause from its customer terms. A member of PNC’s senior legal staff accepted the petition on behalf of the bank.

Forced arbitration clauses, buried in the fine print, prevent consumers who have been harmed or ripped off from holding their banks accountable in court and instead force them to plead their cases to private arbitration providers, picked by the banks. The result is that consumers cannot practically or fairly resolve disputes with these powerful financial institutions.

The petition, organized by national consumer and citizen groups including Public Citizen, Consumer Action, The Other 98%, Alliance for Justice, American Association for Justice, Americans for Financial Reform and National Association of Consumer Advocates, targeted the five biggest banks that use forced arbitration clauses: PNC, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and US Bancorp. (Read the press release.)

Joining me in Pittsburgh for the petition delivery were local activists Kristen Hochreiter, a student at the University of Pittsburgh, and Dawn Marie Smith, a student at Carlow University.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, Consumer Action delivered the same list of petition signers to the Wells Fargo bank headquarters. And coincidentally, 16 state attorneys general urged the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to restrict bank use of forced arbitration.

These deliveries were the first of several actions planned to target these five big banks and urge them to remove the fine print that prevents customers from having their day in court if the banks rip them off.

To join this ongoing effort, add your name to the petition to make sure it’s included in the next round of deliveries.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.