by Deepak Gupta
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a crushing blow to American consumers and employees, ruling that companies can ban class actions in the fine print of contracts.
Now, whenever you sign a contract to get a cell phone, open a bank account or take a job, you may be giving up your right to hold companies accountable for fraud, discrimination or other illegal practices.
In a 5-4 vote, the justices held that corporations may use arbitration clauses to cut off consumers and employees’ right to band together through class actions to hold corporations accountable.
Class actions are an essential tool for justice in our society. Brown v. Board of Education was a class action. The fate of class actions should not be decided through the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it contracts.
The court’s decision today turns the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 – a law that was intended to facilitate private arbitration between sophisticated companies – into a shield against corporate accountability.
Today's decision will make it harder for people with civil rights, labor, consumer and other kinds of claims that stem from corporate wrongdoing to join together to obtain their rightful compensation.
Justice Breyer asks the critical question: "What rational lawyer would have signed on to represent the Concepcions in litigation for the possibility of fees stemming from a $30.22 claim? Why is this kind of decision—weighing the pros and cons of all class proceedings alike—not California’s to make?"