Saturday, October 31, 2015

Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice - The New York Times

As I prepare to go to teach American tort law in China I look wistfully at my explanations of the roles of judge and jury as characteristic of our system of justice.  Industry has been very successful at reducing jury trials.  Fewer civil cases than ever are tried.  But now with the help of the United States Supreme Court they have taken a giant step.  Through the thin consent of the shrink-wrap, now the quick click contract of adhesion they have removed themselves from courtroom challenges by disappointed customers and employees. - gwc

Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice - The New York Times

On Page 5 of a credit card contract used by American Express, beneath an explainer on interest rates and late fees, past the details about annual membership, is a clause that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.”

Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.

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