The recent fake account scandal at Wells Fargo and the data breach at Equifax have brought to light so-called “forced arbitration.” These clauses, tucked in the fine print, force Ohioans to sign away their rights to access the court system if they are cheated.
But these clauses don’t end with financial institutions. From nursing homes to for-profit colleges, Ohio’s working families should not be forced to sign away their right to a day in court.
Last week, I talked with an Ohioan whose wife suffered physical and mental abuse while undergoing care in a nursing home. This would be bad enough on its own, but because of forced arbitration clauses in the nursing home’s paperwork, his family can’t seek relief in court.
Any family who’s been through the transition of admitting a loved one into a nursing home will tell you it’s a difficult time in the best of circumstances. Forcing those families to sign away their rights is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.
We see similar issues in banks and other financial contracts, like those signed by Equifax and Wells Fargo customers. And we’ve seen it in the shady for-profit college industry. Schools close and leave students tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no degree, and unbeknownst to students, their enrollment agreements contained forced arbitration clauses.
Thankfully, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Education took action to protect consumers.
But now action by Congress and the Administration puts those protections in jeopardy.
The House already passed a law overturning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule, voting to leave consumers vulnerable to these sneaky clauses by banks and payday lenders. Now the Senate is considering doing the same as early as this week.
On top of that, the Trump Administration announced it will roll back rules that were meant to protect students and nursing home patients, before they even go into effect.
I’m supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule and fighting efforts in the Senate to overturn it, making it easier for banks like Wells Fargo to deny rights to their customers.
And I’m urging the Administration to do the right thing and move forward with protections at the Department of Education and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As elected officials, it’s our job to protect the people we serve – not banks and corporations trying to scam consumers.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.