Mandatory Arbitration-Unfair to Military Families and Consumers

When men and women of the United States Armed Forces are deployed in service to their country, they should not have to worry about their families being victimized by legal and financial schemes at home. To prevent lenders and others from taking advantage of a military service member’s absence while on active duty, Congress passed the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act. The Act provides certain legal protections to service members, by assuring that they will not miss their fair day in court because they are deployed.

Some companies have found a way around this protection for military families. It is called “mandatory arbitration,” and it effects soldiers and civilians alike. “Mandatory arbitration” does an end around the mostly level playing field provided by the courts, and requires that legal disputes between corporations and consumers be decided by an arbitrator hand-picked by the corporation. Sounds fair, if you are the corporation. Not so much if you are one of the rest of us.

A recent news story exposes some of the abuses that result from “mandatory arbitration.” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/17/business/wronged-troops-are-denied-recourse-by-arbitration-clauses.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0.

A “mandatory arbitration” clause can be slipped into any consumer contract without most of us ever noticing. If there is ever a dispute with the corporation over the transaction, “mandatory arbitration” means that dispute will be decided entirely on the corporation’s terms (where, when, how and by whom.). We think our legislators should rein in this growing practice; and, that consumers should be wary of doing business with any company that puts a “mandatory arbitration” clause in the contract.

Do you think “mandatory arbitration” is a fair way to resolve disputes? We’d like to hear.

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