Republicans in Congress already are vowing to repeal a new arbitration rule that prevents banks, payday lenders and credit-card companies from forcing consumers to sign away their right to join a class-action lawsuit.
The rule was issued recently by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent agency.
Jamie Cogburn, a trial attorney in Henderson and a member of the Nevada Justice Association, said mandatory arbitration in these types of cases generally is stacked against the little guy.
“When you’re looking based upon the study that the CFPB did,” he said, “you saw that in 2010 and 2011 consumers won less than 10 percent of the time and Wall Street won over 90 percent of the time.”
Cogburn said individuals need the right to join a class-action lawsuit because few can afford to sue over something such as an unfair charge on a bill, and yet the practice can affect millions.
Opponents of the rule have predicted it will clog the courts with frivolous lawsuits. They have 60 legislative days under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule, which officially goes into effect next year.
The rule also requires companies to report arbitration data to the CFPB, which plans to publish it. Cogburn said the current system protects companies accused of unfair business practices.
“If you see that Corporation X, claims are brought about the same thing over and over – all that is unknown to other consumers,” he said. “Basically, the arbitration process kills the transparency, because it’s private and it’s not public record.”
The rules don’t apply to arbitration clauses in other types of contracts, such as for doctor visits or nursing homes. A Democratic bill to ban forced arbitration altogether has gotten nowhere. House Republicans also have their sights on the CFPB itself, with other legislation to subject the agency to congressional review and strip it of some of its authority.
The rule is online at consumerfinance.gov, and the House proposal to weaken the CFPB, the “Financial Choice Act,” is at congress.gov.
By Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – NV