A pair of national consumer advocates have issued a report and a draft of model legislation that can be introduced at the state and federal level that aims to restore consumer protections and civil justice that they argue have been “stripped away,” eliminating the right of Americans to have their day in court. The announcement follows announcements from regulators like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that they are looking at the additional fees — referred to as “junk” fees — that are often charged by companies to consumers.
The model legislation and report call for the end of mandatory arbitration clauses, for example, while also expanding the ability for consumers to sue and the amount of compensation that can be made awarded as part of the legal process.
“The relentless corporate assault on the rule of law has deeply damaged Americans’ confidence in the legal system, a development with dire implications for U.S. democracy,” said Harvey Rosenfield and Laura Antonini, the authors of the report, in a statement. “We have lately learned how fragile our institutions are, how quickly anger and despair can turn to violence when the rules do not apply to everyone. We must reclaim control of our civil justice system from the corporations so that it serves the American people and empowers them to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”
The group behind the effort is calling itself #REPRESENT and is a project of the Consumer Education Foundation.
Companies would be required to connect consumers with a human being within 10 minutes, would limit what companies could do with consumers’ personal information, would curtail the use of algorithms, cap interest rates at 10%, while also revamping the legal process.
The report attacks fees like resort fees added on by hotels and baggage fees added on by airlines as a means of hiding the true costs associated with using those services.