International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution

Article

‘Opportunity Knocking?’ Is Online Binding Arbitration a Viable Solution to Consumer Claim Preclusion Resulting from the Supreme Court’s Endorsement of Class Arbitration Waivers in Consumer Contracts of Adhesion?

Keywords online binding arbitration, class arbitration waiver
Authors Andrew M. Malzahn
Author's information

248732 Andrew M. Malzahn
Andrew M. Malzahn, J.D., summa cum laude, 2015, Hamline University School of Law; Associate, Dady & Gardner, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Abstract

      Arbitration is an important feature of the American justice system, providing numerous benefits, such as flexible dispute resolution, efficiency, privacy and avoidance of unwarranted punitive damages, while significantly reducing cases on overloaded court dockets. Its success, however, is not without criticism; and in the case of class arbitration waivers, as this article suggests, that criticism is well founded.
      Since the enactment of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in 1925, the United States Supreme Court has pronounced a sweeping policy in favour of arbitration. More recently, the Court has made significant pronouncements in favour of class arbitration waivers, overruling a lower-court trend towards refusing to enforce such waivers.
      The Supreme Court’s endorsement of class arbitration waivers unfortunately results in claim preclusion of consumer claims for relatively small amounts of money. Stuck in this relatively inequitable playing field, there exists an opportunity to design innovative solutions to protect consumers from claim preclusion. Online binding arbitration, OArb, offers numerous benefits that offset its drawbacks, and it provides an accessible forum for some consumers to effectuate small claims. While OArb has failed to gain traction as an alternative dispute resolution process, it seems likely that a private, properly administered OArb programme could succeed and provide benefits to companies and consumers alike. OArb, however, is not a complete substitute for class arbitration, especially because numerous consumers are probably unaware of their claims. OArb, nevertheless, is a step in the right direction, and consumers are sure to benefit if it is implemented on a wider scale.

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