MDRS will administer arbitrations pursuant to mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses between companies and consumers only if the contract arbitration clause and specified applicable rules comply with the following minimum standards of fairness:
- The arbitration agreement must be reciprocally binding on all parties such that (a) if a consumer is required to arbitrate his or her claims or all claims of a certain type, the company is so bound; and, (b) no party shall be precluded from seeking remedies in small claims court for disputes or claims within the scope of its jurisdiction.
- The consumer must be given notice of the arbitration clause. Its existence, terms, conditions and implications must be clear.
- All remedies that would otherwise be available to the consumer under applicable federal, state, or local laws must remain available under the arbitration clause.
- The arbitrator(s) must be neutral, and the consumer must have a reasonable opportunity to participate in the process of choosing the arbitrator(s).
- The consumer must have a right to an in-person hearing in his or her hometown location.
- The consumer may have the benefit of counsel.
- With respect to the cost of the arbitration, when a consumer initiates arbitration against the company, the only fee required to be paid by the consumer is $150.00, unless contrary to applicable state law. All other costs must be borne by the company. When the company initiates an arbitration claim against the consumer, the company will be required to pay all costs associated with the arbitration.
- The arbitration provision must allow for the discovery or exchange of non-privileged information relevant to the dispute.
- An Arbitrator’s Award will consist of a written statement stating the disposition of each claim. The award will also provide a concise written statement of the essential findings and conclusions on which the award is based.
These standards are applicable where a company routinely places an arbitration clause in its agreements with individual consumers and there is minimal, if any, negotiation between the parties as to the procedures or other terms of the arbitration clause.
A consumer is defined as an individual who seeks or acquires any goods or services, primarily for personal, family, or household purposes, including the credit transactions associated with such purchases, or personal banking transactions.
These standards do not apply to the use of arbitration in resolving disputes arising from commercial transactions between a lender and commercial borrowers or a company and commercial customers, other financial services such as investment transactions, real estate transactions, or to matters involving underinsured motorists.
Further, these standards do not apply if the agreement to arbitrate was negotiated by the individual consumer and the company.