Binding arbitration is a way for corporations to force you to surrender your legal rights as a condition of doing business, relegating you to seeking redress for breaches and harms by going before a paid arbitrator who is in the employ of the company that harmed you, and who almost always sides with their employer.
Ten years ago, Chase did away with binding arbitration in its credit-card agreements (after settling a class action suit accusing the company of conspiring with its competitors to force customers into binding arbitration), but two days ago, the company sent customers holding Chase Slate cards a notice informing them that their new contract includes arbitration: "This arbitration agreement provides that all disputes between you and Chase must be resolved by BINDING ARBITRATION whenever you or we choose to submit or refer a dispute to arbitration. By accepting this arbitration agreement you GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO GO TO COURT (except for matters that may be taken to a small claims court). Arbitration will proceed on an INDIVIDUAL BASIS, so class actions and similar proceedings will NOT be available to you."
Chase Slate customers have until August 7 to opt out, but they must do so in writing by postal mail.
This should send shivers down consumers' spines. It's unclear if Chase plans to extend binding arbitration to all of its cards, but that wouldn't be surprising. And Chase is not alone. A 2016 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts found that forced arbitration clauses are on the rise among financial institutions.
As revelations come to light about individual contracts quietly forcing individuals to give up their right to sue in court, Chase's move shows that financial institutions are growing more emboldened to force these terms on their customers. For now, all Chase Slate cardholders can do is voluntarily opt out. Be sure to buy the right stamp.
Chase bank is quietly adding a forced arbitration clause to some credit cards [Cale Guthrie Weissman/Fast Company]