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The contributors to the Consumer Law & Policy blog are lawyers and law professors who practice, teach, or write about consumer law and policy. The blog is hosted by Public Citizen Litigation Group, but the views expressed here are solely those of the individual contributors (and don't necessarily reflect the views of institutions with which they are affiliated). To view the blog's policies, please click here.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

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Mark Deuitch

Our experience is that many consumers seem to prefer an advocate who will agree with their position in a dispute over an arbitrator who will judge it on merits. Arbitration implies risk of your claim being judged and your possibly losing the case, whereas an advocate is viewed as someone who will agree and defend your side regardless of its merits. In simple terms, many consumers may want someone to beat up the bully rather than sit down with you and the bully to see who is actually at fault. Surprisingly, we've seen this even in cases where the a consumer appears to have an extremely strong case against a vendor. This has been our experience at PeopleClaim with some, but certainly not all or most claims. We've also seen cases where consumers give up and drop seeming strong cases at the first sign of resistance from the opposing party. While uncertainty of outcome likely plays a big part in consumer reticence to arbitrate (I'm using arbitrate in general terms that include systems like PeopleClaim or the BBB as well as formal arbitration), lack of clearity or confidence about a claimant's rights or standing probably plays an even bigger role. We find many consumers simply feel that if a business, especially a large, well known brand name business, has done something unfair, that business must have the law on their side, and as a result it would be futile for the consumer to try and contest it through any arbitration process. Our recently launched wiki-rights program is designed to help overcome this problem by providing consumers and businesses with a set of plain english, fairness based rules that will act as a reference to consumer rights in any industry. Viewers can contribute to that discussion and suggest or debate rights by industry on the PeopleClaim website.

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