The Congressional summer recess might just be rampimg up in earnest this week, but 38 Senate members and another 65 House lawmakers delivered a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray to push through the agency’s plan to limit arbitration.
To recap, the CFPB made a proposal back in May that would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses that the bureau said denies groups of consumers “their day in court.”
The bureau insisted many consumer financial products such as vehicle installment contracts, credit cards and bank accounts have “contract gotchas” that generally prevent consumers from joining together to sue their bank or financial company for wrongdoing. The CFPB believes these widely used clauses leave consumers with no choice but to seek relief on their own — usually over small amounts.
“With this 'contract gotcha,' the CFPB contends that finance companies can “sidestep” the legal system, “avoid accountability” and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and “harm” countless consumers.
The proposal generated immediate industry pushback.
The American Financial Services Association recollected that the CFPB released a study on arbitration last year. In the material, the bureau said consumers are harmed by arbitration agreements as opposed to class action lawsuits. However, AFSA insisted its careful review of the CFPB’s study demonstrated that the opposite is true — consumers are actually better served by arbitration agreements.
In 60 percent of class actions studied by the CFPB, consumers received no remuneration at all, according to AFSA’s analysis.
Nonetheless, these Senate and House members — primarily Democrats — are urging the CFPB to enforce its arbitration proposal.
“Every day, Americans across the country are forced to sign away their constitutional right to access the courts as a condition of purchasing common products and services like credit cards, checking accounts and private student loans,” the senators wrote in their letter that’s available here.
“To restore Americans’ access to justice and hold financial institutions accountable, we strongly support the CFPB’s proposal to preserve the ability of consumers to band together in class actions when seeking relief through the civil justice system,” they continued.
House members shared a similar refrain in their letter posted here.
“By restricting class actions and class-wide arbitration in consumer contracts, these clauses enable corporations to avoid public scrutiny by precluding access to the courts,” the House lawmakers said. “This is particularly problematic for small, diffuse misconduct that harms innumerous consumers.”
The House members encouraged Cordray to proceed quickly on the rule “to ensure that consumers have equal protection under the law.”