Wednesday

Arbitration Still Sucks - And it Sucks More Often

Good looks can be deceiving.
In a recent case a consumer complained to us that they had bought a late model Chevrolet Impala that looked and ran great, right up to when it didn't just a few months after they bought it. Then a knocking noise started in the front end, the transmission starting jerking and the tires were cupping. One thing led to another and they found out that it had been in a multi-car accident that was so bad it had to be towed away from the scene.

When you buy a wrecked and poorly repaired car and the selling car dealership hides that fact from you, you probably think you should have the right to make them buy it back and go to Court if they refuse, right? Well, maybe you do and maybe you don't.

This particular new car dealer in Strongsville, Ohio - like many car dealers nowadays - has a little clause printed in their sales contract that says when you buy a car from them, you agree you will never sue them. Buy a car from them and you lose your right to do anything about it in Court. Think you can fight it? Well, think again.

Binding Mandatory Arbitration clauses like that are getting slipped into more and more consumer transactions - very often without the consumer even knowing it. Take breakfast cereal.

Eat cereal and lose your rights?
Did you know that if you bought a General Mills cereal product, say Cheerios or Lucky Charms, etc, or even if you just "liked" them on Facebook, that you were giving up your constitutional right to go to Court if you ever had a dispute with them? Yup. And Heaven help you if you used one of their coupons. True, they recently rewrote their arbitration clause after it became widely reported by the media, by generously saying that just going on Facebook or Twitter would not be covered by the "you can't sue us ever" clause anymore.

But really, folks, if you use a 25 cent coupon and your breakfast cereal turns out to have rat poisen in it, don't you think you should have the right to go to Court over it if you have to?

Little by little, big corporations are taking away your legal rights. It isn't the government that is stripping away your legal rights. And while the nut jobs out there may scream otherwise, it isn't Congress and it isn't the President either. Don't believe it? Check your Direct Tv contract. Your Verizon cell phone contract. Or any of your credit card contracts. You can see a whole list of companies who are doing it to you and read what happened to ordinary people who got nailed by the arbitration hammer at the Public Citizen website.


Binding mandatory arbitration is spreading like a virus and it's attacking you and your rights and you don't even know it.


But back to that Chevy owner. It turns out that the car dealer uses an arbitration clause that says you can never take them to Court over anything at all. So, if someone comes out of the dealership after you with a baseball bat - tough luck. If they lie to you about that car being in perfect condition when really it's a wrecked and badly repaired car - tough luck. And if they sell you a bad transmission - tough luck.


Avoid the Trap. Protect Yourself
All you get to do is pay to go to their private "system" where you will sit in a private room (no public allowed) and try to convince a person picked by the car dealer why they should make the car dealer do something for you. Oh, and you have to pay them for their time. And if they don't side with the car dealer, then the car dealer can just change their paperwork and pick someone else - so whose side do you think they will be on?

Maybe it's time to say "give me back my rights" and start reading your paperwork carefully - and stop doing business with the companies who sell you their products with one hand, take your money with the other hand, and then give you the boot if you catch them ripping you off.

The NRA refuses to let anyone trample on the everyday person's right to bear arms, sure. But who is out there to protect your right to a fair, impartial and public legal system, one where you can go to find Justice? You have to do that for yourself.

So the next time you see something in a contract or paperwork that talks about "arbitration" just take your ink pen out and put a great big "X" over it. If that car dealer wants your money bad enough (and he does), he will take it. And if he doesn't, then you should ask yourself "just what are they doing to me that they are afraid to let a judge and jury find out about?"

And if you already are stuck with an arbitration clause, don't give up. We fight those too. And we win. Fighting a rigged arbitration system by yourself is an uphill battle so don't go it alone. Why do we fight? Frankly, we like fighting for Justice. It's what keeps the bad guys in check.

Arbitration Sucks. More often than ever.


Burdge Law Office
Protecting consumers everyday for more than 25 years.