Arbitration Agreements Bad For Florida Consumers

Tallahassee, Florida ( — The State of Florida is just one of many states facing a crisis in regards to an onslaught of consumer arbitration agreements. These “agreements” seem to be popping up in all facets of the consumer’s life, with most signers having little clue as to what it is they are signing.

The savvy corporate and Big Insurance industries are becoming attuned to the advantages of having the consumer sign this “agreement” before rendering services. Everything from incorrect fees on credit cards to medical malpractice allegations to home building disputes have succumb to the injustice of consumer arbitration agreements. It works in their favor to have the innocent and unassuming consumer “agree” to giving up their right to seek justice inside the courtroom should they have a dispute with the individual or business involved.

The incredulous consumer, completely unaware that this “agreement” was even signed, is dumbstruck if/when something goes wrong with the exchange of the goods or services to find out that their dispute must now be resolved through arbitration, and in most cases, cannot be appealed.

The consumers must pay the initial filing fees to begin the arbitration process and oftentimes must pay at least half of the arbiter’s hourly fees and related personal expenses, which can run into the thousands of dollars. The unsuspecting consumers are also frequently required to travel thousands of miles away at their own expense to even attend the arbitration hearings. When the discontented and disgruntled consumer is finally made aware of all the obstacles and costs associated with filing an arbitration claim, many are discouraged and forgo pursuing their claims.

Further complicating matters is the relationship forged between the arbitration panels and the corporate and Big Insurance industries. After all, arbitration panels are in a business and need to see a profit, which oftentimes comes with repeating customers (i.e. their friends in corporations and Big Insurance). Being perceived as too consumer friendly can cost an arbitration firm valuable repeat business, which creates a natural incentive for arbitration panels to tend to rule in the favor of corporations.

The State of Florida must work at helping to protect the unassuming consumer from signing these binding “agreements.” The Legislature can do things such as requiring arbiters to disclose any financial interest they may have in the outcome of an arbitration, providing grounds for having an arbitration panel’s decision overturned, creating a fair procedure for the selection of an arbiter, prohibiting costs of an arbitration from being shifted onto the consumer, or banning consumer arbitration agreements from all insurance policies.

Don’t let the corporate and Big Insurance groups continue to take away your rights! Contact your local Florida senator or representative today and tell them why consumer arbitration agreements should stop!

By Jacqui Sisto
Communications & Marketing Director for the Florida Justice Association in Tallahassee, Florida.
Ms. Sisto can be reach at [email protected]

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