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Amazon Takes a Step in the Right Direction on Forced Arbitration, But There’s Room for Improvement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Contact: Doug Walker at 202-618-6430 or dwalker@bettermarkets.com

Washington, D.C.  –  Stephen Hall, Legal Director and Securities Specialist for Better Markets, issued the following statement on Amazon’s decision to dispense with mandatory arbitration:

“Forced arbitration clauses that companies tuck into their fine-print agreements have been the bane of consumers and investors for decades.  As we’ve long argued, arbitration is typically a secretive and unfair dispute resolution system that favors corporations, provides few procedural safeguards, and offers virtually no right to appeal.  Banks and brokers, along with corporate America in general, rely on these clauses to limit their liabilities, no matter how egregious their misconduct may have been.

“That’s why Amazon’s decision may be a hopeful sign of positive change.  The latest version of their ‘Conditions of Use,’ provides that all disputes with anyone using their services will be adjudicated in state or federal court.  That means anyone harmed by an Amazon service will have the right, either alone or as part of a class action, to seek relief in a court of law.

“At the same time, we hope that Amazon and other companies do more to get it right.  Amazon has given with one hand but taken with the other, since its new clause removes the right to a jury trial, one of the most important elements of our judicial system.  And it also forces every consumer with a claim to travel to Washington State, regardless of how far away they live and work.  That doesn’t mesh with Amazon’s fundamental business model, which prides itself on serving its customers wherever they live.  And it’s been reported that Amazon’s decision is really a self-serving move to limit the costly wave of arbitration fees they’ve faced as thousands of their customers file claims in arbitration.

“If Amazon eliminated the jury trial waiver, allowed the venue for each claim to be determined under the facts and the law in each case, and let consumers choose between the courts and a genuinely fair arbitration system, then we’d really have something to cheer about.”

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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.com.

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