by Jeff Sovern
Consumer law is filled with illusory consumer protections, and one form they take is the supposed obligation to give serious consideration to the possiblity that the provider is wrong in its claims. Examples include credit bureaus' obligations to conduct a reasonable investigation of consumer disputes–an obligation which has historically been discharged in only minutes, as discussed more fully in our consumer law casebook at page 381 n. 5, though it would be great news if that is changing; the attorney's obligation to conduct meaningful review of complaints in debt collection lawsuits, which some lawyers may take seriously but to which others devote only four seconds; and the signing of affidavits by those with personal knowledge before a home can be forclosed upon–which resulted in robosigning. Now there's a new item on the list. According to Stacy Cowley writing in the NY Times, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos created a system that rushed through student loan borrower applications for loan forgiveness. Applications could run hundreds of pages, but workers were supposed to plow through them at a rate of one every twelve minutes. Those who took too long risked loss of their jobs. The article is worth a read and discusses much more than I have written about here. The Biden administration's approach can be seen here. There's a law review article in when systems like these actually provide consumer protection and when they create only the illusion of consumer protection. Or maybe just a saying: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? Private lawsuits? Regulators? The fourth estate?