Money Talks: Forced Arbitration Fading

Nobody likes the idea of spending time in court, but sometimes it's the only way to get justice.

But if it's justice you want from a dispute with American Express, Discover or AT&T's Universal card, don't expect to find it in a courtroom. Because you've already agreed to avoid courtroom conflict in favor of arbitration|

Don't remember doing that? Well, you did, because these credit card issuers, along with many others, make arbitration a part of their customer agreements. It's found in the very small print that you've probably never read. And you accepted those terms simply by using the card.

That was me back in 1999, doing a story about unfair mandatory arbitration. And now here, 11 years later, it might be coming to an end.

Because the recently enacted financial reform law requires the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to study the issue, then modify...or even eliminate mandatory arbitration.

Now, you may be thinking "what's wrong with arbitration? After all, Isn't it cheaper?" Yes it is. But you want to be able to maintain the right to sue. 1999 Stacy will explain why.

Because generally, if you're agreeing to arbitration, you can't join a class-action lawsuit either. And class-action lawsuits, where groups of people sue together, are sometimes the only thing that pack a financial punch powerful enough to change the policies of giant corporations.

Bottom line? While arbitration is often the best option, consumers will probably benefit by it not being the only option.

That's one provision of the new financial reform bill to keep an eye on. Lots more right here at I'm SJ.