Scary stories from the consumer graveyard

flickr photo / Stuck in Customs

Halloween is coming up and it’s time to share your scariest consumer stories. A new blog, Arbitration Horror Stories, wants to hear from people who have had their lives turned upside down by those binding mandatory arbitration clauses that are hidden in all kinds of consumer contracts — for everything from credit cards and stock trading accounts to gym memberships. You usually don’t know that you’ve signed away your rights to take these companies to court over a dispute until it’s too late.

The blogger is Ehren Bragg, a Southern California luxury car consultant who supposedly has written a novel based on his own arbitration horror story. His blog seems to be a pretty straight attempt to publicize the pitfalls of mandatory arbitration.

Consumers who have found themselves in the arbitration trap know the horrors all too well.

Instead of your day in court, you’ll find yourself in front of an arbitrator who was handpicked by the company you have a dispute with. The system is stacked against you. These “independent” arbitrators know they have to deliver business-friendly verdicts or they won’t get any repeat business. A Public Citizen study found that one of the nation’s leading arbitration firms ruled against consumers 94 percent of the time in its California cases.

Good luck to Ehren. While he’s the new blogger on the block, there are plenty of great posts on arbitration over at Tort Deform and Caveat Emptor. Also be sure to check out the resources at Public Citizen.

And for anyone who finds themselves in arbitration against a company that has done them wrong — be afraid. Be very afraid.