Tucked into our cellphone bills, credit-card statements, checking accounts, car leases, and private student loans is language most of us never read.
If we have a problem with the company, it says, we can't sue. Instead, we have agreed to something called arbitration.
That may be about to change.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled last week a proposal that could allow U.S. consumers to sue rather than be subject to mandatory arbitration. The agency is seeking comments from the public until June 12.
The outcome could be a win for the consumer, advocates say.
"We applaud the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for proposing a strong rule to prevent lawbreaking financial institutions from using 'fine print' arbitration clauses to ban class actions," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy.
"Class actions are critical for holding companies accountable in court," she said. "Since most cases are too expensive and difficult to bring individually, these ripoff clauses result in the disappearance of claims and immunity for the wrongdoer. The CFPB has taken an important step to ensure corporate accountability and protect consumer rights."
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