BREAKING NEWS: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a final rule which banned companies from using arbitration clauses to bar consumers from filing class action lawsuits. This CFPB rule sets up a fight with banks, credit card and other companies and potentially the Trump administration.
To note, the CFPB, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is an agency of the United States government responsible for consumer protection in the financial sector. CFPB jurisdiction includes banks, credit unions, securities firms, payday lenders, mortgage-servicing operations, foreclosure relief services, debt collectors and other financial companies operating in the United States.
The CFPB has ruled that all mandatory arbitration clauses with class action litigation bans serve as a break on consumers recovering on small dollar disputes with credit card companies and other lenders. As a result of this, consumers often believe that they are unable to pursue small-dollar disputes, or do not think that their final payout would be worth the trouble, allowing big companies to wrong consumers with little to no consequence.
In addressing this problem, the CFPB rule makes it so that companies are no longer allowed to put such class action bans in their arbitration clauses, which protects consumers, allowing them to band together in group lawsuits when they have suffered similar problems.
“Arbitration clauses in contracts for products like bank accounts and credit cards make it nearly impossible for people to take companies to court when things go wrong,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “These clauses allow companies to avoid accountability by blocking group lawsuits and forcing people to go it alone or give up.”
However, Law360 reports that the rule does not ban arbitration clauses, which allow companies to take consumers into binding legal settlements with arbitrators paid for by the company. Consumer advocates had hoped the CFPB would take that step.
The rule, however, does make changes to the arbitration process for individuals by forcing companies to submit information about individual cases to the Bureau that would be published on the CFPB’s website. Included in the list of items companies will have to disclose are initial claims and counterclaims, answers to these claims and counterclaims, and awards issued in arbitration.
The information will be posted beginning in July 2019.
Republicans in Congress and the industry have pushed the CFPB to hold off on issuing a rule, and it could be invalidated through a vote under the Congressional Review Act. Several Obama-era regulations were invalidated by Congress in the early days of the Trump administration, but the CFPB’s rules for prepaid cards survived.
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