05/09/2012 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // Bay Area Consumer Protection Lawyer Carey Been // (press release)
San Francisco, CA — It’s been one year since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision that has since changed the landscape for consumer class action lawsuits, preventing consumers from rightfully seeing their day in court. Since AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, consumers have routinely been blocked from pursuing class action lawsuits and have been instead forced into arbitration where the odds are stacked in favor of the corporation, reports San Francisco protection lawyer Carey Been of Keller Grover LLP.
According to a Public Citizen and National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) report, since that landmark decision, the courts have stopped at least 76 potential class action lawsuits from going forward. Prior to the Concepcion ruling, for the most part, corporations could not keep themselves out of court by forcing their customers to settle any disputes in private by arbitration tribunals by incorporating such language into their contracts.
This ruling has systematically nullified 19 state laws that protected consumers’ ability to vindicate their rights in a class action—where consumers actually have a fighting chance against mega-corporations.
Following the highly debated Concepcion decision, the power of arbitration has been greatly expanded because the ruling allows corporations to force customers into individual arbitration, blocking them from pursuing cases as a class. Without the ability to pursue cases with small individual damages on a class basis, consumers will have a great deal of difficulty finding legal help. Carey Been, a Bay Area consumer protection attorney states, “This ruling has only created an even more uneven playing field—a David vs. Goliath scenario, where consumers have no options and nowhere to turn beyond arbitration.”
“Class actions are indispensable for allowing consumers to seek redress when a company’s practices harm thousands of consumers, particularly when the harm results in a small-dollar loss for each consumer,” said Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel with Public Citizen and co-author of the report. “Under Concepcion, those cases can’t go forward, leaving millions of consumers without a remedy for corporate wrongdoing.”
But, not all hope is lost, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced Tuesday that it is beginning to study the practice of arbitration, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The study is a prerequisite to the CFPB writing rules on this issue. In addition, the Arbitration Fairness Act, which is currently pending in Congress, would eliminate forced arbitration in consumer and non-union employment contracts.
“The Concepcion ruling has only made it increasingly harder for consumers to obtain justice in a court of law. Instead, corporations can hide behind the arbitration cloak, while consumers are left with nowhere to turn, except arbitration, where they likely won’t find a lawyer to represent them or receive a fair judgment,” explains San Francisco consumer protection lawyer Carey Been.
Keller Grover is an experienced employment law firm that has played leading roles in a wide variety of consumer protection and employment related claims, including wage and hour, breach of contract cases and discrimination and harassment cases based on race, sex, age, disability and other legally protected categories. Keller Grover LLP is dedicated to helping workers whose wage and hour rights have been violated. For more information about the Bay Area consumer protection lawyers at Keller Grover and employment law cases, please visit www.kellergrover.com.
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