Print Friendly and PDF
Asked to pay for help with your student loans? Don’t do it.
What to buy and not buy in September

Consumers don’t understand arbitration clauses in agreements and contracts that limit their right to go to court when they have a dispute, study shows

Gavel Being Pounded law-1063249_640Most Americans don’t know how often they’re stripped of their rights through widely used forced arbitration clauses that are found in the fine print of everyday click-through agreements, terms and conditions, and other contracts, according to a new study.

Arbitration clauses require consumers who have complaints to settle issues through arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit.

“Consumers shouldn’t be silenced by big corporations that harm them,” said Shennan Kavanagh, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, an organization that specializes in consumer issues on behalf of low-income people. “Businesses should be willing to stand by the goods and services they provide and not hide behind contracts that dupe consumers.”

Americans have no idea of the gravity and breadth of fundamental rights they’re losing by signing up for services, or using a product, said Roseanna Sommers, Ph.D., University of Michigan law and psychology professor, who recently released a study on forced arbitration. It shows:

  • More than 99 percent of consumers who use popular products and services such as Netflix, Cash App, or Hulu, had no idea they’re subject to forced arbitration.
  • Less than 5 percent of consumers could recall reading anything about forced arbitration, even when shown typical consumer terms and conditions containing a forced arbitration clause.
  • Fewer than 1 percent of consumers correctly understood that forced arbitration robs them of their right, protected by the Seventh Amendment, to seek a resolution through the courts.
  • Less than 5 percent of consumers understood they wouldn’t be able to appeal a clearly legally wrong, unfair, or biased decision determined through arbitration.
  • Even in the few circumstance that corporations let Americans “opt-out” of forced arbitration, the study shows that the hoops consumers need to jump through, such as sending a letter through the mail in a short period of time, makes that option thoroughly meaningless.

It’s time Congress and regulators eliminated these “gotcha,” forced arbitration clauses, Kavanagh said.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should act now to permit arbitration only when the consumer chooses it after a legal dispute has arisen,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group.

For more information, see “How to Opt-Out of a Forced Arbitration Clause.”


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


It doesn't matter if you understand or not, mandatory arbitration and relinquishing one's right to participate in class action provisions have become ubiquitous. 4-5 years ago, I was thinking of buying something from Macy's website, --until I saw the argreement. Decided to wait until I could go to a store instead.

State & federal regulation are needed but I've seen no signs of interest in doing so from the Biden Administration. In any event, the very pro-corporate S.Ct has already made the decisions that have enabled corporations to include those provisions in consumer credit and consumer purchase agreements. Arbiration is "private justice", and results aren't available to the public, estimates I've seen indicate a biase in favor of, what a surprise, corporations, nnt consumers.

It's possible for Congress to override Supreme Court decisions, but i can't imagine this Congress nd probably tne ext one doing so. Mostly a majority of Congress votes as its corporate & wealthy donors wish. I truly wish that were not so bu so far is corporate overreach and the erosion of consumer protection and rights part of ANY presidential or Congressional candidates platform? If there were real/true "populist" candidates there would be.


You're so right. The only people I've seen talking about forced arbitration are the consumer groups.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)