Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Want to Sue Your Bank? Regulators Push to Make It Easier

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Want to Sue Your Bank? Regulators Push to Make It Easier

Article excerpt

NEW YORK * If government regulators get their way, it's going to become a lot easier to sue your bank.

By and large, U.S. bank customers have signed away their right to sue their bank in court, often without being aware of it. Buried in the fine print of credit card agreements, bank accounts and insurance policies are what are known as binding, or mandatory, arbitration clauses. It means customers are generally required to take any disputes with a bank to a third-party mediator instead of going to court.

The nation's top consumer financial regulator wants to put a stop to that. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed a rule Thursday that would ban arbitration clauses, which would affect the entire financial industry and the hundreds of millions of bank accounts, credit cards and other financial services Americans use.

The bureau's proposal does have a significant limitation. The ban would only apply when consumers want to create or join a class- action lawsuit. Financial companies will still be able to force individuals to settle disputes through arbitration; however, cases where a lone customer wants to sue his or her bank are far less common.

"Many banks and financial companies avoid accountability by putting arbitration clauses in their contracts that block groups of their customers from suing them ... (and) effectively denies groups of consumers the right to seek justice and relief for wrongdoing," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in prepared remarks.

If a bank account, credit card or other financial service has an arbitration clause attached to it, a bank currently has a right to force a customer into arbitration to resolve a dispute. Consumer advocates say these arbitrators are often biased and routinely rule against consumers. If a customer loses an arbitration ruling, oftentimes it cannot be appealed.

The financial industry has argued that arbitration is a more efficient way for customers to resolve disputes with banks.

A study commissioned by the bureau in March 2015 showed that is very likely the case. …

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