National Consumers League

The assault on consumer rights moves into high gear


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SG_HEADSHOT.jpgThis past week, the National Consumers League (NCL) took its working capital out of Wells Fargo Bank and deposited it with the pro-consumer and pro-worker Bank of Labor. We did this for several reasons. One of the primary reasons is that Wells Fargo forced its staff to open more than 2 million phony bank accounts without their customers’ consent to generate fees and penalties. We moved the money to Bank of Labor because BOL does not have a provision – known as forced mandatory arbitration – in its contract with its customers who bank there. It is also union-owned and unionized. 

Forced arbitration clauses are intended to protect banks and other corporations from having to defend illegal practices in a court of law. Instead, customers are prevented from going to court; the corporation provides the private arbitration forum, controls the process, and there is no requirement that arbitrators follow the law and or provide a right of appeal. And for now, it’s legal because the current Supreme Court says it is.  That means that there is no formal record, no legal precedents are set and everything is done in the secrecy of a private arbitration. That is bad for consumers and bad for our legal system. 

Mandatory arbitration is part of a decades-long campaign waged by the Chamber of Commerce and corporate American against consumer rights. But now, with majorities in both Houses of Congress who are allies with the Chamber, and the White House in the hands of Donald Trump, the Chamber smells blood and is moving with alacrity to enact multiple anti-consumer bills. And they are skipping basic legislative procedures by forgoing hearings and moving simply to vote the bills out of committee en masse and to the House floor. 

The six bills are: H.R. 720, Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2017; H.R. 725, the Innocent Party Protection Party Act of 2017; H.R. 732, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017; H.R. 985, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2017; H.R. 906, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2017; and H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017. All of them curtail consumer rights and all of them should be strongly opposed by consumers.