Soliciting Comments on an Arbitration Study

by Jeff Sovern

I figure if it's good enough for the CFPB, it's good enough for us: 

I'm part of a team, along with other professors and the Hugh L Carey Center for Dispute Resolution here at the Law School, that is crafting a survey on consumer understanding of arbitration clauses.  Unlike the CFPB survey, which is a telephone survey, we plan to approach consumers on the street and ask them to read a credit card contract containing an arbitration clause.  We then will ask questions about the arbitration clause to see what the consumers understand: do they realize they're giving up their right to sue in court, to bring a class action, to seek a jury trial; what happens if the arbitrator rules against them, etc.  It's a little artificial because while we will ask the consumers to imagine that they have just received the credit card contract and to give it the same amount of attention (or lack of attention) they would give a real credit card contract, the way they respond may not be exactly the way they would respond to receiving a real credit card contract.  On the other hand, unlike the CFPB survey, it doesn't require consumers to try to remember terms they may not have read in years. And who knows if we will even be able to persuade people to take the time to answer the questions?  Anyway, just as the CFPB is soliciting comments on its survey, I would love to get helpful comments on ours.  If you want me to email you the draft survey for the purpose of commenting on it, please let me know in the comments or email me at sovernj at stjohns dot edu.  We have already begun testing the survey and may begin surveying consumers in earnest next week, so we would prefer to have any comments soon.

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