The deck is increasingly stacked against consumers. A New York Times investigation shows how American corporations have constructed an oppressive scheme designed to deny credit consumers their right to a jury trial.
Americans by the millions are falling victim to arbitration clauses hidden in the fine print of contracts we all sign every day: credit card agreements, car loan contracts, utility bills. Under these clauses, consumers give up their right to challenge unfair charges in court, or even to defend themselves. Corporations are aided in this scheme by debt collectors who buy the alleged debts, and by the U.S. Supreme Court itself, which opened the door to these hese unfair business practices in a pair of pro-business opinions that bar consumers from banding together to file class-action lawsuits challenging them.
In many cases, the Times found that unlicensed debt collectors were filing lawsuits to enforce old, expired alleged debts, much to the surprise of consumers who either can't recall or deny having incurred the debt. The vast majority of these lawsuits are unopposed because the consumer lacks the financial resources to defend them, or because they were never notified of the suits.
Often, the first notice to the consumer is when their bank account balance mysteriously dips due to a legal levy by the debt collector. By then, it is either too late to challenge the judgment, or the consumer - facing a hopeless web of legal procedure - simply acquiesces to what seems inevitable.
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