Let's Fix This Country
law

Corporations Appoint Themselves Judge and Jury &#0151 It’s in the Fine Print

And we let them, with arbitration our only recourse

The New York Times this past week ran a three day investigative series on the now near universal preemption by corporations of consumer access to the U.S. justice system for resolution of disputes. Filling seven pages of the Times large format print edition, the paper found that Americans are almost entirely unaware that, when they do business with U.S. corporations, they are signing away a constitutional right — that is, until they have a problem.

If you've been a subscriber to LetsFixThisCountry for a time, you know about the problem. Back in May of 2013 we raised a red flag with a 1,400 word article titled, "Think You Can Take It To Court? Think Again" that began:

It controls your checking account; it governs your brokerage account; it’s in those “terms” on the internet to which you clicked “Accept”; it’s in the contract with your cable company, your cell phone service; it’s probably in your mortgage’s fine print or any other loan agreement; it’s even in the contracts you signed with local merchants such as a gym or a tanning salon; and you can be sure it governs every credit card in your wallet or handbag. What we are writing of, as if it were a fungus or invasive species, is the fine print to which you effectively agreed when you signed on for any of these services — terms that stipulated that any dispute may be resolved only by arbitration, a process whereby an arbitrator will be assigned to hear the claims of parties to a dispute and will have the sole power to decide who wins.

The Times expands on this with a number of personal stories of people left helpless against megacorps. In 2013, in what we called "another of Supreme Court's dreadful decisions", the justices made things immeasurably worse by allowing the fine print of corporate contracts that we never read to ban the individual consumer from starting or joining a class action suit, leaving individuals no chance whatever to contest huge American corporations on their own.

This May we ran a follow-up titled, "Maybe You’ll Have Your Day in Court Again". There was a glimmer of hope when the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau issued a 728-page report (mandated by Dodd-Frank) that raised the alarm. Happily, that apparently has not simply simply gathered dust, says this item in the National Law Review, reporting that the CFPB intends to fight the class action prohibition.

The surreptitious takeover by corporations has deprived you of what you probably thought was a fundamental right — your access to the courts. Read about what has happened to you in these two articles of ours, and here are links to the Times valiant work (can we mention again that we led by two-and-a-half years?) which we'll tag Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for when they appeared.

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