Companies provide almost all consumer financial products and services under written contracts. Arbitration agreements in those contracts can require that parties resolve any subsequent disputes through privately-appointed individuals (arbitrators), rather than through the court system.
The right to trial by jury in any civil or criminal dispute is a protected right guaranteed to the population in the 7th Amendment right to trial by jury. An ‘arbitration clause’ takes away that right to dispute a consumer issue in court. Equifax announced the data security breach and then invited victims to sign up for free credit monitoring and identify theft services through its site. Buried in the ‘terms of agreement or use’ clause of these programs was an arbitration clause that intended to prohibit victims using the services from being able to later sue Equifax for the breach.
But the public shaming that Equifax received for using these clauses highlights the need for public awareness. Arbitration clauses have become commonplace in the consumer industry, and can be found in many areas, including credit cards, checking accounts, and mobile wireless contracts. Other industries have followed suit, including nursing homes and employment contracts. Many people report they are unaware they have signed an arbitration clause to restrict their rights or do not fully understand the significance.
If you have a dispute arising from a consumer product or service where the business is asserting that an ‘arbitration’ clause prevents you from seeking legal action, contact Tammy Bowles Raines Law Office for a free consultation.