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Politics

The GOP wants to deny you your day in court

Catherine Rampell on

WASHINGTON -- Normally, Republicans are in favor of giving consumers more choices.

Normally, Republicans are all about law and order.

And normally, Republicans claim to be strong defenders of the Constitution.

For some reason, though, the idea of giving consumers the choice to participate in a court of law -- a right enshrined in the Seventh Amendment -- leaves some GOP legislators quaking in their loafers.

That's the implication of a resolution introduced in both the Senate and House on Thursday. While you were busy pondering President Trump's views of Napoleon, members of Congress were working to keep you from your day in court.

Here's the context.

When you get a new bank account, credit card, payday loan or auto lease, there's a lot of fine print. Often, the fine print says that if the company harms you -- say, charges you a questionable hidden fee, blocks your ability to access your own money or opens a sham account in your name without your knowledge -- you can't sue it in court.

Instead, you have to resolve the dispute outside the court system, bound by a decision made by a private individual rather than a judge or jury. Sometimes this private individual, called an arbitrator, is selected and paid by the very company that you believe ripped you off.

Which does not exactly suggest that this is a neutral party.

Another consequence of this fine print -- called a "forced arbitration clause" -- is that it prevents you from bringing or joining a class-action suit against the company that harmed you. That's true no matter how many other people were victimized by the exact same company, even if they were victimized in the exact same way.

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