Most everyone is guilty of clicking “I agree” before actually reading the Terms & Conditions. It’s easy to assume there is nothing of importance in the dozens of pages of legalese. However, the New York Times reported that one-third of top websites include a clause that forbids consumers from taking the company to court if something were to happen. In one instance, several consumers came forward against Travelocity for allegedly conspiring to fix hotel room pricing. Travelocity added one of these clauses to the Terms & Conditions in 2010, so any consumers who had used the service beginning after that date were unable to participate in the suit. They were sent into forced arbitration to resolve their claims.
Many large companies fear class-action suits and put in forced arbitration clauses to protect their profits. At the same time, many of these companies exercise their own right to take other people or entities to court regularly. This hypocrisy allows corporations to send consumers to often biased arbitrators while preserving their own access to the courts. The NYT explains:
Being forced to settle complaints in arbitration, which is presided over by a private lawyer rather than a judge, leaves consumers with little recourse if they disagree with the ruling. After the case is over, arbitration clauses sometimes also ban consumers from discussing the case publicly, even if they won, unlike in court, where case records are almost always public.
Some of the notable top websites who do not have a forced arbitration clause include Facebook and Google. WSAJ will continue to fight to ensure the full rights of users are respected.
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