Today the New York Times published an article outlining the level of absurdity that corporations will go through to abrogate the legal rights of consumers. Three years ago the Supreme Court delivered the opinion of AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion, 584 F.3d 849, where it reversed the 9th Circuit and found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) makes agreements to arbitrate valid, irrevocable, and enforceable and prohibits States from conditioning the enforceability of certain arbitration agreements on clauses, such as the waiver of bringing class actions.
Since that holding, corporations starting conditioning almost all consumer transactions, and now interactions, on agreeing (implicitly) to forced arbitration. As the New York Times has revealed, now General Mills, the maker of common household brands like Cheerios and Bisquick, trades consumers’ access to a courtroom for private, forced arbitration, if they choose to download coupons online or decide to follow General Mills on Facebook. A copy of the full article online can be found at:
This issue of ever expanding forced consumer arbitration and waiver of consumer rights, has been an issue Congress has now taken up. Paul Bland of the Public Justice Center recently testified before a House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, highlighting this ongoing problem, pointing out that there is no meaningful judicial review of arbitration decisions due to current law which allows arbitrators nearly complete freedom to ignore their own rules, the facts, and even the law.
The latest step taken by General Mills highlights the future of forces arbitration and the loss of consumer rights. If this trend continues, perhaps merely browsing a corporate website or signing up for news alerts will be a basis for giving up your day in court if the company’s products or services later cause harm.