By: Ellen Taverna
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the top two days of the year when companies promise the best deals and promotions. People wait for hours online or brave the bitter cold outside to be the first to retrieve these record-breaking sales. What Amazon, Verizon, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, JP Morgan Chase, and countless other brand-name companies don’t like to advertise on Black Friday or Cyber Monday is the forced arbitration clause buried in the fine-print of their contracts.
Most of us don’t take the time to read the mouse-print terms when we’re rushing to buy a new cell phone or gift card or applying for a gym membership or credit card. They’re often difficult to understand and there is no real opportunity to negotiate the terms. And big banks and corporations want it to stay that way.
What exactly is “forced arbitration”? It is when a company requires a consumer who may have been hurt or ripped off by the company to take their claims to private, secret tribunals instead of holding them accountable in court. The consumer is stuck with the results from the decision-maker picked by the company that wronged them because there’s no appeal.
That means that when JP Morgan Chase suffered a massive data breach last month affecting over 70 million consumers, these consumers could be out of luck. That’s because JP Morgan Chase has attempted to get away with being held accountable in court by including forced arbitration clauses in its customer contracts.
JP Morgan is one of several Wall Street banks that uses forced arbitration against consumers; therefore, hundreds of thousands of claims of fraud, identity theft, or illegal fees or charges could be kicked out of court and sent to a private system designed to favor Wall Street.
Wall Street banks and big retailers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of consumers: forced arbitration is rampant in student loans, payday loans, auto financing, and prepaid card contracts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is reviewing the use of forced arbitration in financial services and products. The CFPB has authority to issue a rule banning forced arbitration for consumer financial products and services, and last week 16 state attorneys general have asked the CFPB to do so.
In the meantime, when you think you’re getting the deal of the century on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, remember that this company could be taking away your legal rights if something goes wrong.
Let’s take a stand right now against this injustice! More than 82,000 consumers have signed a petition demanding that Wall Street restore customers’ legal rights. Make your voice heard and sign the petition.