It’s there in that contract that you signed. You’ve probably never seen it before unless you have proactively searched for it, or you have a strange penchant for reading the small print of adhesion contracts. It has found its way into the vast majority of contracts between consumers and providers, and the average person would likely not understand the import of its inclusion in the contract. It allows large and powerful corporations who create these contracts, that consumers must sign by the way, to dictate the form of resolution (i.e. arbitration) of any complaint, and the location that resolution must occur.
That’s right, you guessed it, we speak of the all powerful and usually inequitable arbitration clause. While the courts have been properly knocking down these egregious attempts to subjugate consumers’ rights, recently in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 130 S. Ct. 2772 (2010), and other similar cases, the courts have opened up the floor to large corporations for experimentation in how much they can get away with in regards to arbitration clauses.
Such is the case in Duran v. The J. Hass Group, 2012 WL 3233818 (E.D.N.Y. June 8, 2012), where the plaintiff, from New York, alleges that she was the victim of a last dollar scheme. The defendants accepted from the nearly destitute Ms. Duran $4000 to help her repair her damaged credit. They then proceeded to do NOTHING for her, and still kept her $4000. She brought her case to the courts in New York, but the defendants threw down their defense of having an arbitration clause that required Ms. Duran to arbitrate her case in Arizona. Here’s the kicker; the court bought it! The Second Circuit explained that upholding the clause would be what the Supreme Court would want. This they decided even after recognizing that in order for her to show that forcing her to go to Arizona would be unconscionable and unfair, she would have to GO TO ARIZONA to make the argument! You would think that recognizing a failure of logic in their decision would help change their mind, but not so here.
Please get the word out about how unfair arbitration clauses can be, and most especially please spread Ms. Duran’s story of injustice so that this intolerable practice can be exposed and dealt with accordingly.