A bill was introduced in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives today to stop big business from taking advantage of US citizens by their growing routine use of fine-print mandatory binding arbitration clauses that take away your basic right to go to court. Americans need this law.
What follows is the press release issued by the National Association of Consumer Advocates. It explains what some of your legislators want to do to protect you from getting ripped off. Please read it and then write your senator or representative and tell them that you want them to vote FOR the Arbitration Fairness Act so your legal rights can still be protected.
Alexandra Fetissoff (Sen. Franken): 202-224-4645
Kate Hansen (Sen. Blumenthal): 202-224-2823
Andrew Phelan (Rep. Johnson): 404-593-9126
Sens. Franken, Blumenthal, Rep. Hank Johnson Introduce Legislation to Protect Legal Rights of Consumers
Bill Would Remedy Supreme Court Ruling, Restore Consumers’ Rights to Justice Through Courts
WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/17/11]—Today during a press conference, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) announced the introduction of legislation that would restore consumers’ rights to seek justice through the courts. The Arbitration Fairness Act would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases, and would allow consumers and workers to choose arbitration after a dispute occurred.
“Workers and consumers should never be forced to give up their rights to get hired for a job, or to get a cell phone,” said Sen. Franken. “I’ve introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act to ensure that workers and consumers have the right to choose arbitration over litigation, instead of being forced into it by corporations.”
"Consumers fighting for fundamental rights against giant corporations deserve their day in court," said Sen. Blumenthal. "This new law would protect countless consumers in Connecticut and around the country from powerful companies that take advantage of them. When individuals have legitimate claims against big corporate interests, they have the right to a level playing field. "
“Forced arbitration clauses undermine our indelible Constitutional right to take our disputes to Court,” said Rep. Johnson. “They benefit powerful business interests at the expense of American consumers and workers. These bills are designed to defend our rights and to re-empower consumers.”
In AT&T v. Concepcion, consumers brought a claim against AT&T for false advertising. However, because the value of their case was only $30, their case was consolidated into a class action. AT&T sought to block the lawsuit by pointing to the mandatory arbitration clause in the service contract but lower courts applying state law rightly invalidated the arbitration clause because it banned class actions entirely.
In its 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned these lower court decisions which sought to protect consumers. The majority of the Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) barred state courts from protecting consumers from these arbitration clauses. However, the FAA was originally passed to ensure that the courts enforced commercial arbitration agreements between two companies, not between companies and consumers. The Supreme Court’s expanded interpretation of the FAA allows companies to insulate themselves from liability when they defraud a large number of customers of a relatively small amount of money.
What the Arbitration Fairness Act Does:
- Restores the original intent of the FAA by clarifying the scope of its application.
- Amends the FAA by adding a new chapter invalidating agreements that require the arbitration of employment, consumer, or civil rights disputes made before the dispute arises.
- Restores the rights of workers and consumers to seek justice in our courts.
- Ensures transparency in civil litigation.
- Protects the integrity of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, among others.
A longtime advocate for consumers and workers in cases of forced arbitration, in 2009 Sen. Franken passed legislation with bipartisan support that restricts funding to defense contractors who commit employees to mandatory binding arbitration in the case of sexual assault and other civil rights violations. Rep. Johnson, a longtime champion of workers and consumer rights, first introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act in 2007.
At today’s press conference, Sens. Franken and Blumenthal and Rep. Johnson were joined by Deepak Gupta, an attorney with Public Citizen who argued on behalf of consumers in the AT&T v. Concepcion case before the Supreme Court, Hassan Zavareei, an attorney with Tycko & Zavareei LLP, and Nancy Zirkin, the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.To find out more about "Binding Mandatory Arbitration" and how some business use it to rip you off, click here: www.ArbitrationSucks.com.
After the Russian banker (Vladimit Antonov) fell through, after the Chinese company (Hawtai) didn't happen, now they're on to "door #3" as Monty Hall might have said under similar circumstances on his "Let's Make a Deal" tv show.
This time it's Pang Da Automobile, according to Automotive News. The Chinese dealership chain that apparently is talking about a $150-155 million deal that would give Saab enough money to reopen its idled assembly plant (it's been closed over 45 days now) and give Pang Da sales rights in China plus 24% (originally announced as 29.9%) of the Saab company.
Rumor was that Saab was talking with several Chinese companies, looking for that apparently elusive white knight with cash, and Pang Da is no slouch. They just pulled off a billion dollar IPO that was the second largest Chinese IPO this year. Cash? They got it alright. But is it enough?
Saab is calling it "medium term funding" which has to make you wonder what long term funding would mean. Still, the Chinese company is a dealership chain so their initial talks give them a chance to buy 40 million euros worth of vehicles immediately, which will line Saab's pockets for at least a little while, during which all the rest of the ducks can be put in a row to finalize the "memorandum of understanding" that the two corporations have signed.
Meanwhile, if you are in the market to buy a new or used car, think twice before you buy Saab. Here today, gone tomorrow could mean "stuck" for you. On the other hand, maybe you'll get a heck of a deal on that used Saab?
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With the money, Saab was set to pay its suppliers and re-open its closed factory. Then, mirroring what happened when the same Chinese company tried to buy the Hummer brand from GM a few years ago, it all came undone, according to an article from the Detroit Bureau.com.
Apparently Chinese bureaucrats closely regulate the company and Hawtai could not get their approval on the deal. If the deal had gone thru, Saab could have started distributing Chinese-made vehicles in the US and elsewhere.
The European Investment Bank, which also has a stake in what's going on, nixed a prior deal that would have had a Russian banker buying up a big chunk of Saab.
Meanwhile, Saab suppliers have generally been refusing to deliver parts to the Saab plant since March 29 and that stopped production of the two central Saab models, the 9-3 and the 9-5. Saab's chairman said he is still hopeful (that the company can pull a rabbit out of the hat) but things continue to look dimmer for the Swedish company.
Now more than ever - think twice before you buy a Saab product anytime soon. Because soon they may be an orphan.
Harley Davidson has a pretty good reputation with bikers. They've been around a long time and the quality is pretty good, but lately we've been seeing them and their dealers play the same game over and over.
You go and buy a bike and, of course, the dealer talks you into adding on a new "aftermarket" exhaust to give it that genuine throaty "Harley sound" that you expect from a real Harley bike.
Then a few months later it blows a head gasket, starts vibrating bad, throws a drive belt, the battery goes dead and the fuel mileage sucks. The dealer scratches their head and calls Harley and gets nowhere. You scratch your head and call Harley and get nowhere. Is it Lemon Law Time? You betcha.
So what's really going on here? Simple. The dealer wants to make an extra 800 or so off the deal so they talk you into the new set of pipes. Then, if anything goes wrong with the bike later, Harley says you altered the bike's original equipment so now there's no warranty coverage. Even though you know it has nothing to do with the pipes, Harley still tries to stick it to you. Don't put up with it.
Legally, if you add new parts to your bike and later the bike acts up - the only question is whether those parts are the cause of your problem. If so, then no warranty coverage. If not, then they owe you.
If the add-on parts have nothing to do with the problem with your motorcycle - then Harley is still on the hook. They are liable and they can not legally try to blame it on you. Of course, that won't stop them from trying.
Best thing to do is to not buy those add-on "aftermarket" parts in the first place, of course, but if you do, then just make sure that you first ask your dealer if putting those parts on your new bike is going to void the warranty. Then when Harley (or any other manufacturer) tries to tell you that you're stuck, you can turn around and stick it back to them.
That's only fair. If they build it wrong, then they should take care of you. And if the dealer lies to you, then they should step up to it and take care of you. Either way, if it's not your fault then don't let them run over you.
This is the optional "tax" the customer often doesn't even realize is going on - and often doesn't know what the numbers are for either. And the kind of customer who gets charged the most is often a younger consumer who the dealer gets all excited about their new purchase and then smokes them on the sales paperwork (you can see what "smoke" means in our online car dealer dictionary by clicking here).
Here's a good example we just reviewed for a new client who was ripped off and didn't even know it.
A used Chevy Malibu. Price on the paperwork said just over $15,000. The young lady who signed the sales paperwork made a number of mistakes that maybe you can learn from too.
First, she went shopping without her dad or any friend at all. Mistake #1. Car buying can be emotional and if you are all alone, it's easy for an aggressive sales person to pressure you into something you may not be so sure about. Having a friend go with you can help you avoid a pressured decision.
That friend can also be a witness to anything that is said and, believe us, if you are by yourself the salesperson can say anything they want and it's just your word against their's. Promises are nice, but they don't amount to a hill of beans later on when you realize it wasn't written down and no one heard it but you and the salesperson denies ever saying it. They win. You lose. That's mistake #2.
And that 27.9% optional tax? Well, in this case, the lady signed the sales paperwork without realizing the dealer's salesperson had packed into her deal window etching "theft guard" for an extra $100 (it's a waste of your money in our opinion, but you can buy it online for about fifteen or twenty bucks). Then there's the worthless "colander" extended warranty (that's one that won't hold water because it's got so many holes in it that the warranty company doesn't have to do anything they don't want to do for you) from some out of state outfit that requires her to come back to the dealer for future repairs (where they can sell her more when she returns) for $1,300 (oh yeah, and it only covers the car for a year). Mistake #3.
Then there's the GAP "insurance" they packed into here deal that really isn't insurance at all - it usually pays about $2,500 if your car is stolen and your insurance doesn't pay off the whole loan and it cost her $700 (another rip off, given the amount they are charging, the amount paid off, and the infrequency of cars stolen compared to cars being sold). Tack on the dealer's "key care" program, the "dent repair" plan, the credit life insurance, the credit disability insurance, and - for good measure - something new ... "personal assistant" services for an extra $90. Pile them all up and you've got mistake #4.
By the time she was done, or rather by the time they were done with her, that $15,000 car had an "out the door" cost of just under $20,000. Oh yeah, and her interest rate on the loan was 18% (a big chunk of which the lender gave back to the dealer as a kickback for setting it up that way - they call it "dealer reserve").
Before you ever go to a car dealer's lot, if you are going to need financing then go to your bank or credit union and get your financing set up so you know how much you have to spend - and then, whatever you do, don't let the dealer set up the loan for you. They'll promise you they can get you better terms, etc, but it is commonly just a shill game designed to get their hand deeper into your pocket.
You can learn more tips by reading this free legal guide "How to Buy a Used Car and Not Get Ripped Off" by clicking here so you don't waste your money.