Consumers Beg to Differ with Banks

Banks want to keep their customers out of court. But consumers overwhelmingly want the right to take banks to court if they have a dispute.

Those are the findings of research released today by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew studied two subjects: (1) the use of arbitration clauses, class-action bans, and jury trial waivers by banks; and (2) consumer preferences about dispute resolution mechanisms.

As to the first, Pew found that about 70 percent of large banks studied have terms for their consumer checking accounts that require customers to arbitrate disputes with the banks and prohibit class actions. And over 90 percent require customers to waive their right to have disputes resolved by a jury trial.

Meanwhile, over 90 percent of consumers say that if they have a dispute with a bank, they should have a right to go to court and have their cases decided by judges or juries. And about 90 percent also want the right to participate in a class action. Pew found that these preferences were widely shared among consumers in different demographic groups and with different political leanings.

That doesn't mean consumers are litigious. Relatively few thought they'd be likely to sue a bank if the bank charged them an improper fee. In part that seems to reflect consumers' view that pursuing claims will usually not be worth their time or money. But nearly everyone wants to have the option to take a bank to court.

Most banks obviously disagree.

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