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You Still Can't Sue Your Bank. So What Can You Do?
You Still Can't Sue Your Bank. So What Can You Do?
Tobie Stanger ,Consumer Reports October 25, 2017
The Senate's recent vote to let forced-arbitration language remain in consumer contracts with banks and other financial institutions means that consumers will continue to have limited legal options when they believe they've been harmed by companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax.
Now, as before, consumers with complaints about financial companies will in most cases be forced to settle the dispute in arbitration, an out-of-court procedure that often favors deep-pocketed companies and usually can’t be appealed.
With Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the Senate voted 51 to 50 to eliminate a rule, finalized in July by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that would have made it easier for consumers to join class-action lawsuits to fight alleged misconduct by financial institutions.
Under the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers can vacate government agency regulations 60 legislative days after their introduction. The House already voted against the rule, so it is effectively dead. It would have gone into full effect in 2018.
Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, had strenuously supported the CFPB's rule to give consumers the option to join in class actions against financial institutions.
“The vote means that big financial companies can lock the courthouse doors," says George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “The CFPB’s rule was a carefully crafted response to the increasingly prevalent use of forced-arbitration clauses, which require consumers to give up their legal rights just to get a loan or some other financial service."
Ted Frank, director of the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., has a different take. "By voting down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s anti-arbitration rule," he says, "the Senate prevented a cash grab that would have transferred wealth from consumers to the pockets of wealthy attorneys."
But there are ways to make arbitration work for you. The key is understanding how the system functions and how you can use it to your advantage against a financial-service provider.
What to Do First
Before you consider arbitration, there are free and easy steps to take that might help you settle a dispute with a financial provider.
Complain to the CFPB. Register your complaint in the CFPB’s free Consumer Complaint Database or call 855-411-2372. You fill in a form and a CFPB representative transmits your concern to the company.
You’ll usually get a response from the company within 15 days, the bureau says. The CFPB has returned millions of dollars in relief to consumers in the past five years through database complaints.
There’s one drawback: Any decision is final. There’s no way to appeal through the CFPB’s complaint process if you’re unhappy with the company’s response, a spokesman told us.
Report the problem to the Better Business Bureau. Find out where the company is headquartered, then register your complaint with the BBB’s office there. BBB representatives will follow up to help resolve the problem or at least to get a response from the company. You can usually expect one within 35 days of your original complaint.
Next Step: Consult a Consumer Attorney
If the free methods don’t work, consult with a consumer attorney to see whether your case is worth going to arbitration. “To do arbitration, you really need to have at least a couple hundred dollars worth of damages,” says Stacy Bardo, a consumer attorney based in Chicago.
You can find an attorney through the National Association of Consumer Advocates. You may want to call more than one to find out his or her specialty. Dan Blinn, principal at the Consumer Law Group in Rocky Hill, Conn., for instance, concentrates on disputes between consumers and auto dealers about fraud and other conflicts related to auto financing. “There aren’t a lot of lawyers who handle these cases,” he notes.
Blinn says he doesn’t charge a fee for a client’s first visit. But he warns that not every case is worth his time. The best involve violations of laws that allow for fee-shifting—that is, the company you’re up against must pay reasonable fees to your attorney if it loses in arbitration.
Blinn says he steers clear of cases involving credit card or mobile-phone overcharges.
“Usually there are very small amounts involved, $20 or less,” he explains. “If you have a million people charged $5, that’s a $5 million case in class action. But to go into arbitration to recover that $5 for one person isn’t worthwhile for the consumer or the lawyers.”
You could also try to file a personal lawsuit. But that can be difficult, too. “If there’s a binding-arbitration clause and any party to the contract says they want to arbitrate, the court is required to do it,” Blinn says.
In some cases the company may agree to settle.
“That can happen if the defendant doesn’t want to pay the arbitration fees,” Blinn notes. “Sometimes when there’s an insurance-funded defense, the insurance company will prefer you go to court. Insurance companies don’t like arbitration because you can’t appeal. And arbitrators can make mistakes.”
If a lawyer won’t take your case, you can pursue other options, some of which may lead to getting your money back. In other instances, you may merely get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve shamed a company or forewarned other consumers of its faults.
• Go to small-claims court. Usually you can sue only for monetary damages, but in some cases you can be awarded damages for emotional distress and inconvenience as well. The cost to file a suit varies by jurisdiction. In Connecticut, for instance, it's $95. The court considers cases valued up to $5,000.
• Report the problem to your state attorney general. Most AG offices have consumer-fraud divisions. “I’ve seen a few instances where state attorneys general will help individual consumers with cases,” says Paul Bland, executive director of Public Justice, a not-for-profit consumer advocacy organization. “Most state AGs have very limited staff, but this is a smart thing to try.”
Typically, though, the state attorney general’s office won’t pursue your particular situation. Instead, it will add your complaint to their databases of complaints against a particular company or industry for the public to review. States also pursue legal actions against financial companies when enough consumers complain.
• Complain to a state regulator. Banking, insurance, and other state regulators may have consumer divisions to address your concern.
• Go public. Posting and commenting on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, and other social media channels are another way to shame companies and sometimes create change. If your local television news station has a consumer reporter, he or she may investigate and help you get a resolution.
You also can submit a tip on the home page of Consumerist, Consumer Reports' sister website; editors may follow up. Remember not to post account numbers or give out personal information.
Bardo notes that going these routes probably won't result in your getting an economic windfall. “But eventually, if there’s enough pressure, the company may take action," she says.
How Do You Beat The Bankers At Their Own Game?
ZeroHedge.com Mon, 02/04/2019 - 18:40
Authored by Tom Chatham via Project Chesapeake blog,
Those that have been following events for several years know they are under attack by an enemy that has no face and means to do them great harm. Nothing less than their sovereignty and freedom is at stake. Absolute control over people and resources is the ultimate goal.
People need to understand that the bankers need to collapse everything and leave the population in want of resources and supplies. Just like after a natural disaster when the government shows up to provide help to those that have lost everything, the bankers want to show up after the population has lost everything in a collapse, to be their savior and gain control of everyone by offering resources in exchange for compliance.
There are several actions you can take to prevent these people from gaining control over your life.
You must be able to feed yourself-
You must have a home to live in that you own free and clear-
You need to be your own energy company-
You need to be your own bank-
You need to be able to defend what you have-
You need to have skills to operate your own business-
You need to promote a community based economy-
To put it simply, you need to get out of their game and start your own. Remember, the house always wins.
The bankers can only win the game if people are dependent on the elite for everyday necessities. The bankers have created a society of dependent people that they can exploit. They can only continue to exploit people as long as they are dependent on the bankers for the things they need. Once this dependence is broken the bankers lose much of their control on society. This dependence is broken by people who can provide their own necessities.
Early Americans were largely self-sufficient in many things which prevented the bankers from controlling everything. Most people used barter to get the things they needed and bankers have no control over barter transactions. They also have little control when gold and silver are used in cash transactions. These people tried several times to build a central bank in the U.S. but were thwarted. Once the bankers created the FED in 1913, they had the mechanism to control the people.
The bankers and politicians can only win if they have absolute control over you and your family. They can only do this by controlling your access to the things you need and must get from others. By maintaining control over these things yourself, you retain that control and rob them of that power.
In many ways, freedom is a result of self-sufficiency. The less you depend on others, the more freedom you have to make your own choices in life. People who make their own choices are difficult to control and once people realize they can live without the bankers and government entities the collective power of these entities falls away. The future will be either a collective society where government controls everything you do every minute of the day or it will be a free society where people make their own decisions and take responsibility for what happens. What people do today to free themselves from the control of the bankers, will determine what world we will live in tomorrow.