Article Image
Senator Fights Back against Forced Arbitration

Friday, November, 13, 2015

US Senator Al Franken has once again called for limiting forced arbitration requirements when disputes arise between businesses, and their workers and customers. Franken spoke out again after the New York Times published information about contracts that take away consumer rights to sue. Three times previously Franken has sought legislation that would abolish the ability of companies to force arbitration. He believes arbitration clauses “unfairly limit consumer and employee legal options…” His bills would have made pre-dispute arbitration agreements invalid in numerous matters, including antitrust, employment, consumer, and civil rights matters. There are 16 co-sponsors on the bill that is awaiting action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Franken stated, “It’s about giving people the right to get to court.”


Franken is not alone. Many people believe forcing arbitration is unfair and not that arbitration is private. The businesses accused of wrongdoing are the ones hiring the arbitrators and the decisions made by the arbitrators cannot be appealed.


The US Supreme Court previously ruled mandatory arbitration legal in 2011 and 2012, and the US Chamber of Commerce backs arbitration agreements, calling them efficient and fair. Other business advocacy groups also support mandatory arbitration.


In addition to Franken’s bill, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are developing rules to help shed more light on mandatory arbitration in hopes of making it more transparent. The goal is to prevent the public from being “stripped of their constitutional rights to access the justice system through fine print buried in customer agreements.”