Congress Takes Action to Restore Access to Justice for Americans

Bills to end forced arbitrationWashington, DC U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015 (AFA) [H.R. 2087], which would prohibit corporations from forcing people into arbitration and ensure that rights are not eliminated by the fine print.

This widespread, abusive practice is used by corporations to ensure that Americans can never hold them accountable in court when they break laws designed to protect consumers, employees, and students, and it can only be stopped if Congress acts.

For too long, forced arbitration has denied Americans their right to hold corporations accountable when they are cheated, injured, or discriminated against, said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen. AAJ applauds Sen. Franken and Rep. Johnson for leading the charge to ensure access to justice for everybody not just powerful corporations.

By burying forced arbitration clauses in the fine print, corporations can kick Americans out of court and instead funnel them into a rigged forum decided by an arbitration company chosen by the very corporation that broke the law. These dangerous clauses can be found everywhere from cell phone contracts and credit card agreements, to college enrollment forms and nursing home admissions documents.

If enacted, the AFA would:  

  • Eliminate forced arbitration in employment, consumer, civil rights, and anti-trust cases;
  • Ensure that the decision to arbitrate is truly voluntary; and
  • Restore fundamental rights created by state and federal laws that are currently at risk of being wiped out by forced arbitration.

Forced arbitration is especially ubiquitous among predatory, for-profit colleges, leaving their victims unable to hold the schools accountable in court and drowning in student loan debt. Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) introduced the Court Legal Access & Student Support (CLASS) Act of 2015, which will prohibit any school that receives student aid funding from the Department of Education from using forced arbitration against students.

The CLASS Act will go a long way to protect students who have fallen victim to predatory, for-profit college scams, as well as the American taxpayers who are left footing the bill, Lipsen said.