Member of Congress Don Beyer (from Virginia) is an auto dealer-owner who supports the removal of forced arbitration from consumer contracts.
Here are comments he had published in the Congressional Record.
a speech in Congress by Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA), on Apr 19, 2016
Full Text Below, adapted from the Congressional Record.
Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to express my opposition to the increasing use of forced or binding arbitration. Most Americans don't even know about forced or binding arbitration until it happens to them.
Clauses are buried in the fine print of everyday contracts and, before they know it, they are unknowingly compelled to give up their legal rights. Quite honestly, if we just take into consideration human behavior--most Americans don't read the fine print even if they know they should. And let's assume that if they did, I guarantee you most don't have enough of legal background to recognize problem language when they read it.
This is concerning and dangerous when we consider that arbitration clauses are increasingly being inserted into consumer and employment contracts. This allows companies to circumvent the courts and bars people from joining together in class-action lawsuits. And class action law suits are realistically one of the few tools citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.
Applying for a credit card, using a cellphone, getting cable or Internet service and you are likely agreeing to private arbitration unknowingly. This is concerning because arbitration is heavily weighted in favor of the more powerful party. Not only does the corporation that wrote the contract set the terms of arbitration, but it also often decides on the arbitrator. Arbitrators do not have to be trained in the law, nor are they required to follow the law.
Quite simply, arbitration lacks many of the fundamental guarantees of fairness that a court provides. As a small business owner, I view binding arbitration as plainly unfair to the consumer and also unnecessary in the operation of a successful business practice. My business currently operates successfully without engaging in the same predatory practice for consumers.
Lawyers can continually put together more sophisticatedly drafted agreements meaning courts routinely enforce such agreements. That means we have a legally enforceable culture that is reinforcing these one-sided provisions which unfairly tilt the playing field in favor of one party. This is a practice we must stop. I am here to say we must stop it. Let us stop this predatory practice on consumers and bid binding arbitration a farewell.
John Gear is a Salem attorney in solo practice