WASHINGTON, D.C.— Stephen Hall, Better Markets’ Legal Director and Securities Specialist, issued the following statement on a joint letter from consumer protection advocates supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) proposed Public Registry of Terms and Conditions in Form Contracts That Claim to Waive Or Limit Consumer Rights and Protections.
“All too often, financial services companies bury unfair clauses in their fine-print, take-it-or-leave-it contracts with consumers. These provisions severely restrict consumers’ legal rights, making it difficult or impossible for them to seek relief when they’ve been victimized by fraud or abusive conduct at the hands of the company. The CFPB’s proposed registry will catalogue and expose these clauses, thus helping regulators police these practices and also enabling consumers to better protect themselves from unscrupulous nonbank financial firms.
“The joint-comment submitted to the CFPB highlights several of these common tactics used by corporations to limit consumer rights. These include mandatory arbitration clauses, which force consumers to settle disputes with the company not in court but through a secretive and biased private arbitration process; class-action waivers, which prohibit consumers from joining together to seek relief when a company has engaged in a pattern of abuse injuring many consumers; choice-of-venue and choice-of-law clauses, which subject them to laws favoring the company and force them into faraway jurisdictions if they pursue their claims; and one-sided indemnification clauses, which require consumers to bear the costs—including potentially huge attorneys’ fees—of any legal action they take against the company.
“The CFPB’s proposed registry would require companies to submit such contract terms and conditions to a single, publicly accessible centralized database. It will help create a more transparent marketplace and empower consumers to comparison shop when assessing competing financial companies, products, and services. The registry will also help the Bureau, as well as other regulators, law enforcement authorities, and researchers, to better understand the prevalence of these harmful terms and conditions. We also anticipate that the threat of inclusion in the registry by itself may have a deterrent effect against companies that rely on these unfair terms and conditions in their contracts.
“We applaud the CFPB for this important proposal, and we look forward to seeing the benefits it will provide to consumers and regulators alike. The full joint-comment letter, organized by American Association for Justice and signed by the National Consumer Law Center, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, Public Justice, US PIRG, Better Markets, Consumer Action, Public Citizen and the Consumer Federation of America, is available here.”
Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies—including many in finance—to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit www.bettermarkets.org.