by Catherine Anderson, Esq.
From now until February 15, 2013, consumers may opt-out of the Arbitration Provision of the American Express credit card agreement. Consumers who opt-out of arbitration will be able to bring claims and disputes in court, on an individual or class basis, against American Express. Consumers who do not opt-out will lose valuable rights, such as “the right to litigate …claim[s] in court or have a jury trial on that claim” and “the right to participate in a representative capacity or as a member of any class pertaining to any claim.”
Why opt out of arbitration? Statistics from Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, show that the corporate clients, not consumers, are routinely the predominant winners in arbitration. Moreover, the class action device is one of the most important tools consumers have against large companies. While an individual consumer claim is often for a modest sum, when aggregated among similarly situated consumers, the amount in controversy sky rockets. The American Express Arbitration Provision eliminates the corporate risk of class action liability. By opting out of arbitration, consumers can preserve the vital class action device and their right to trial by jury.