Feingold’s Op Ed on Arbitration…
Protecting the right to a day in court
By Russ Feingold
When students learn about our system of justice in civics class, they’re told that every American has a right to his or her day in court. Yet, people from all walks of life often unknowingly sign away their right to a trial when they sign a contract.
This happens to people every day, and in many cases they don’t even realize it, because they agree to something known as “mandatory arbitration” that’s buried deep in a cell phone contract, or in an HMO or credit card agreement.
Sometimes consumers only find out they’ve given up their right to trial when a big company forces them to take a dispute to a private arbitration company instead of going through the court system. Arbitration has some serious downsides for consumers, including high administrative fees. It also lacks discovery proceedings and other due process protections, and meaningful judicial review of arbitrators’ decisions.
There’s nothing fair about some of the arbitration proceedings that consumers are forced into. A major arbitration firm actually advertised its services by pointing out how arbitration favors its corporate clients because arbitrations are secret, and consumers or employees have very limited rights to discovery and might even have to pay the costs of the arbitration if they lose.
Arbitration should be a choice, not a mandate. It is only an adequate alternative to the courts in cases when both sides are willing participants. That is why I introduced legislation to prevent Americans from being forced to agree to arbitrate employment, consumer, franchise, or civil rights disputes. This will ensure Americans who participate in arbitration of these kinds of disputes are doing so voluntarily... [Keep Reading]
Read about Feingold's bill, the Arbitration Fairness Act, here.