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The New York Times Should Remove Forced Arbitration from Subscriber Terms of Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New York Times should remove the forced arbitration clause from its subscriber terms of service, Public Citizen said in a letter sent today to the paper’s CEO Meredith Kopit Levien. The Times surreptitiously added a clause waiving the right to a trial by jury and to class action lawsuits into its terms of service for subscribers during the holidays.

“December 19, 2022, was a silent night at the NY Times’ legal offices,” the letter reads. “While your tens of millions of subscribers slept, with the click of a mouse, they lost their fundamental right to their day in court to address any disputes that might arise…”

The Times’ own investigative reporting has lamented the ubiquitous nature of forced arbitration clauses in everything from private schooling to electric car sales to car leases to mobile phone contracts to credit card agreements and more. The paper has described forced arbitration clauses as a way to “circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits,” in arbitration venues that “bear[] little resemblance to court.”

But in an ironic twist, the paper’s updated terms of service characterize arbitrators as “neutral,” directly contradicting its own reporting. Indeed, when forced arbitration clauses are combined with class action bans, judges, arbitrators, consumers, and advocates cannot assess or remedy the full scope of wrongdoing that affects multiple victims.

“It is not too late for the Times to live up to its own stated values and laudable reporting on this issue, and reverse course,” said Martha Perez-Pedemonti, civil justice and consumer rights advocate for Public Citizen and co-author of the letter. “The Times should immediately strike the forced arbitration clause from its terms of service, because it’s the right thing to do. Times subscribers deserve better and should expect the paper to immediately remove arbitration clauses and class action waivers from its terms of service.”