Last week I ordered Chinese food from an online delivery site I often use- Grubhub. When the meal ended up taking a little longer than expected, I decided to look through my emails and check for any alerts or updates.
So as of April 6, if Grubhub allows your personal data to be stolen, releases damaging computer viruses through its software, misidentifies ingredients causing you harm, repeatedly overcharges, or is responsible for any other kind of harm, you won’t be able to take them to court. Instead, you will be forced to resolve your dispute in a private, secretive, rigged arbitration system controlled by Grubhub, with no right to appeal. What’s more, even if thousands of customers suffer the same kind of injury as you, you’ll have to bring and pay for your case all alone. You’ll be prohibited from joining with others in a class action.
As the Consumerist put it,
If you have a legal dispute with online food delivery portal GrubHub (or its Seamless subsidiary), you will soon lose the ability to resolve that matter in a court of law. And if there are others out there with the same problem as you, you’ll each have to fight GrubHub on your own because the company has decided to view all of its customers as potential litigants.
What’s not to love?
Yet Grubhub isn’t the only corporation forcing people to give up their legal rights like this. It’s happening all over the place. Buried in the fine print of many contracts are, what consumer advocated have dubbed, “rip-off clauses” that strip individuals (and often times small businesses) of their right to go to court if they are harmed by a company.
These forced arbitration clauses and class action bans are so harmful to consumers, that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on drafting a rule to address these clauses in consumer financial products, like bank accounts and credit cards. And last Friday, the Department of Education issued a proposal that “would protect from the use of mandatory arbitration provisions in [college and university] enrollment agreements.”
But while these new rules will be a step toward creating a fairer system for students and financial product consumers, there are still many areas – like food delivery- where companies continue taking away the right to jury trial, which the framers of the U.S. Constitution thought they were preserving with the 7th Amendment.
And you may ask yourself, “What can be done other than not using these goods and services completely?”
Being informed about what is in your contract is a good starting point. But the law allowing these clauses to exist must be changed. So please contact your U.S. Senator or Representative and tell them to support legislation that works to end unfair forced arbitration, like the “Arbitration Fairness Act of 2015” or the “Restoring Statutory Rights and Interests of the States Act of 2016.”
Whatever the solution, diners should know that, like the extra soy sauce they requested, their 7th Amendment right to jury trial many not be included with their meal.