"Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration: A Roundtable Discussion" - August 5 and 6, 2009 #542930-00044

Submission Number:
542930-00044
Commenter:
Brian Forsythe
Organization:
Deferred Films LLC
State:
NY
Initiative Name:
"Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration: A Roundtable Discussion" - August 5 and 6, 2009

I am an independent filmmaker working on a documentary about binding arbitration clauses. I attended the event on August 6, 2009 for the day on arbitration. I thought the event was well organized and explored a diversity of ideas. I believe the exchange was productive. I would like to give you my comments about debt collection arbitration, yet some will apply to binding arbitration in all consumer settings. I have been in different areas of the country asking people if they know what arbitration is and if they are aware that they have agreed to binding arbitration as opposed to access to the court system. I have found that roughly 85% of people don't know what arbitration is and another 5% or so know what it is, but hadn't realized that they were tied to it in many respects. While one of the panelists claimed that most people know what arbitration is, in my experience that is not the case. One of the audience questions asked was what had the industry done to educate the public on what arbitration is. There was no answer from credit industry representatives or arbitration firms. The only people that have been trying to educate people are the consumer groups. If find that problematic and shows that while arbitration companies normally have education sessions for industry, they have nothing for the public. This illustrates how the arbitration companies are looking to help corporations to promote pre-dispute clauses while the public is unaware. As an American consumer, I believe that if there is a decision on a dispute that is not voluntarily agreed to by both parties, that those proceedings should be pubic information. The lack of transparency is making it nearly impossible for consumers to make educated decisions on who to do business with. While debt collection matters are many times cut and dry, the fees and interest that people are to pay should be out there to be studied. And if all of these proceedings were public information, there would not be disputes on whether arbitration is faster, fairer or cheaper. Statistics would be analyzed and discussed. I also understand the difficulties and expense of a court proceeding. Putting all cases back into the court system may not be the best thing either. What I haven't heard discussed is moving to a public versus a private arbitration system, where everything is out in the open. Whether this would be through pre-dispute or post, it would shed light on the process and keep wrongdoing, like has happened with the NAF, more difficult to achieve. I would like to thank the FTC for taking a look at these issues and look forward to reading your findings. Sincerely, Brian Forsythe