Consumer Bureau May Have Final Say on Arbitration Clauses
Los Angeles Times
May 1, 2012
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sought public comment on "how consumers and financial services companies are affected by arbitration and arbitration clauses." CFPB director Richard Cordray says, "Arbitration clauses are found in many contracts for consumer financial products. We want to learn how arbitration clauses affect consumers, and how effective arbitration is in resolving consumers' issues. This inquiry will help the bureau assess whether rules are needed to protect consumers." The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled previously that businesses, including credit card issuers and phone companies, could include arbitration clauses in their service contracts, which can help limit settlements and often favor businesses. With that decision, it would seem that the CFPB could do little to overturn their use, with Public Citizen reporting in 2007 that arbitrators sided with credit card firms 94 percent of the time in disputes with California consumers. The Dodd-Frank Act gives the CFPB authority to study the use of arbitration clauses in financial products and services, and the bureau "may prohibit or impose conditions or limitations on the use" of those clauses if it is in the public interest to do so. This statute could enable the CFPB to supersede the U.S. Supreme Court.
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