Arbitration Infiltrates Daily Lives of all Consumers
Think you don’t have to worry about binding mandatory arbitration? Think again. The use of binding mandatory arbitration agreements in everything from credit card agreements to employee manuals and health insurance means that there are likely few Americans who have not been shuffled out of constitutional protections into a tilted private justice system. In many cases, consumers unwittingly “agree” to binding mandatory arbitration simply by using their credit card or cell phone. In other cases, agreeing to binding mandatory arbitration may be a condition of employment.
Credit card companies increasingly force cardholders into binding mandatory arbitration for a range of disputes and complaints. Identity theft victims may be forced into binding mandatory arbitration to contest fraudulent charges. Consumers with low dollar complaints such as inappropriate finance charges, late payment posting or hidden interest rates may be forced into high cost binding mandatory arbitration.
Cell phone and long-distance telephone consumers may be held to binding mandatory arbitration for complaints over inappropriate charges including calls not made and billing local calls as long-distance. These complaints are often for small amounts of money, making it too expensive for consumers to pursue the complaints through the pricey binding mandatory arbitration process.
Binding mandatory arbitration presents a significant threat to civil rights laws and protections. Employees may be forced into binding mandatory arbitration for complaints including discrimination, harassment and improper termination. Employee healthcare plans may require complaints to go through a binding mandatory arbitration system. Employees often must sign these agreements as conditions for employment or continued employment.
Binding mandatory arbitration can jeopardize a consumer's largest financial asset: their home. Many builders' contracts for new home construction can require defect or construction problem complaints to go through binding mandatory arbitration for resolution. Additionally, many mortgages require binding mandatory arbitration to resolve any complaints or problems with the mortgage.
Binding mandatory arbitration is working its way into many healthcare settings, including health insurance plans and hospital and nursing home admissions forms. Patients contesting treatment approvals from insurance companies may have to go before an arbitration panel. Nursing home residents suffering neglect or mistreatment may be barred from holding an irresponsible nursing home accountable.