For release: May 9, 2013
Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy group, applauds Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for reintroducing the Arbitration Fairness Act, H.R. 1844. Forced arbitration is an increasingly common practice that strips American consumers and employees of their right to a fair trial, should they be harmed from a product or while at work.
“Too many consumers and employees unknowingly sign contracts that contain forced arbitration clauses buried deep in fine print,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director. “These hidden agreements effectively protect big companies from being sued by shutting off consumers’ and workers’ access to the courthouse.”
In January of 2013, NCL joined with other consumer groups to issue a manifesto urging the Obama Administration and Congress to re-examine consumer protection laws. The groups asked that consumers be released from mandatory binding arbitration clauses in consumer contracts that do not allow for alternative forms of dispute resolution or judicial review.
Consumers who sign arbitration clauses are prevented from being able to sue a company in court, but rather are directed to a private arbitration firm that is often chosen and paid for by the business. Forced arbitration not only takes away consumers’ right to a trial, but it also bars them from class-action suits, a vital tool for consumers and workers to band together and seek justice.
Defending consumers’ access to the courts has been a long-time goal of the League. In 2008, NCL, along with six other consumer and public interest groups, called on the Obama Administration and Congress to enact legislation that would restore an unbiased and open justice system that remedies harms and holds wrongdoers accountable. In 2011, NCL praised the introduction of the Arbitration Fairness Act (S. 987 and H.R. 1873), which would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases, and which would effectively override the Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T v. Concepcion.
“Having a dispute settled by an arbitration firm is like suing someone in a court when you know the judge has been paid off by the defendant,” said Greenberg. “The Arbitration Fairness Act would restore American’s right to a fair trial and deprive big companies of their get-out-of-jail-free-card and we urge the Senate to vote to pass quickly.”
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.