National Arbitration Forum Pulling Out of Consumer Debt Collection, for Now

Published On: 20th August 2009

     Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that arbitration groups, such as the National Arbitration Forum, are pulling out of agreements with credit card and cell-phone companies to resolve disputes. The arbitration companies are waiting until new guidelines are established in the wake of controversial handling of consumer debt collection disputes. The pull-out happened quickly after the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office filed suit against the National Arbitration Forum in Mid-July for, among other things, not disclosing its financial ties to debt-collection companies. The National Arbitration Forum reports that companies prevail in over 94% of such consumer cases and that it processed over 214,000 consumer-debt collection claims in 2006. For the entire Wall Street Journal article, entitled Credit Care Disputes Tossed Into Disarray, click here.

     Arbitration is considered as a less expensive, less formal, and quicker alternative to the traditional court process of resolving disputes. A neutral arbitrator is the cornerstone of the arbitration process. Many consumers choose to arbitrate, while others are forced to arbitrate by terms of their business contracts. The recent examples show the need to protect the process. Consumers are most vulnerable in both being forced to arbitrate and then losing their case before a potentially biased arbitrator. This is not the way arbitration was envisioned. At least for now, credit card and cell-phone companies will reflect on that process, which will hopefully translate to increased fairness for consumers.
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     This website is not to provide legal advice as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation. In addition to providing related information this blog may also be considered an advertisement for legal services.

     If you or a loved one have experienced adverse consequences as a result of consumer arbitration, please contact our firm for a free consultation and information. To contact attorney Suzy Scheller, directly please send an email to sscheller@prslegal.com, or call Suzy at 612.767.7500.

WILL NATIONAL ARBITRATION FORUM’S TAINT EXTENDS TO ARBITRATORS?

Published On: 12th August 2009

 

On July 20, 2009, the office of Attorney General Lori Swanson of the State of Minnesota announced a settlement with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF). The State of Minnesota brought suit against the NAF because the NAF had financial and ownership interests aligned with the corporate consumer credit interests bringing matters before arbitrators of the NAF. As a result of the Attorney General’s lawsuit, the NAF agreed to “get out of the business of arbitrating credit card and other consumer collection disputes.” (See Press release from the Office of the Attorney General Lori Swanson dated July 20, 2009; http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/PressRelease/090720NationalArbitrationAgremnt.asp.)
It is obvious that this settlement will have a huge affect on the results of countless arbitration decisions. Even those arbitration decisions appropriately awarding money to the credit card companies are now not to be believed. The NAF has been exposed as a biased organization that was holding itself out to the public as “A forum Dispute Management Organization” that in fact was an organization with a financial interest in the outcome of the many disputes it was managing.
As people who were wronged by the NAF find legal counsel and bring lawsuits against the NAF and the creditors who benefited from the NAF conduct, some of the wrongs will be righted. But what is going to become of the individual arbitrators who must have done the bidding of the NAF in order to bring about these unfair arbitration decisions? So far I have not seen any arbitrators publically identified who performed arbitrations on behalf of the NAF. But, inevitably, individual reputations of arbitrators will be affected by the fall out of the NAF’s conduct.
This website information is not intended to provide legal advice, as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation. In addition to providing related information, this blog may also be considered an advertisement for legal services.
If you or someone you know has lost such an arbitration and wish to fight back against a party that wronged you unfairly, please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding your rights as a consumer. To contact the author, Attorney Steve Randall directly, please send an email to srandall@prslegal.com, or call any of the attorneys at Pearson, Randall, Schumacher & LaBore, P.A. at 612-767-7500.

Consumers fight back against unfair credit arbitration abuses of the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) as exposed by the Minnesota Attorney General’s lawsuit

Published On: 12th August 2009

While lawmakers in Congress are passing bills attempting to reform the credit card industry, consumers are taking action through public and private attorneys on another aspect of credit abuses.

One company that has attracted controversy and is presently subject to lawsuits is the National Arbitration Forum, or NAF. The National Arbitration Forum, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, provides arbitration and mediation services to businesses, including credit card companies and related financial institutions, cell phone providers, wireless service providers and even nursing homes or employment situations.

Credit issuers often place mandatory arbitration clauses in their terms or contracts for providing services to consumers. This means that consumers are forced to use the arbitration system and procedure set out by that fine print of terms or contracts. These conditions require consumers to sign away consumers’ right to sue in a court of law for disputes. To add to this impact, there is now evidence being revealed that the processes used by the credit issuers or employers through the National Arbitration Forum, NAF, were not fair to consumers.

The National Arbitration Forum, NAF, is frequently used as the exclusive entity to act as the arbitrator by many businesses. As one of the largest alternative dispute resolution providers in the nation, the National Arbitration Forum, NAF, has recently been sued by the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and a quick settlement is pending. After being sued by the MN Attorney General, a public attorney for the state, on July 14, 2009, NAF agreed to quit arbitrating disputes for now. To understand the claims against NAF, review a copy of the pending lawsuit in the public sector against the National Arbitration Forum at: http://www.ag.state.mn.us/PDF/PressReleases/SignedFiledComplaintArbitrationCompany.pdf

Lawsuits are forming by both the public sector of the attorney generals in states with consumer protection laws, but also in the private sector by dedicated attorneys that represent consumers.To learn more about the breaking story, see also: http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jul2009/db20090714_952766.htm

This website information is not intended to provide legal advice, as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation. In addition to providing related information, this blog may also be considered an advertisement for legal services.

If you or someone you know has lost such an arbitration and wish to fight back against a party that wronged you unfairly, please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding your rights as a consumer. To contact the author, Attorney Nicole L. Kreklau directly, please send an email to nkreklau@prslegal.com, or call any of the attorneys at Pearson, Randall, Schumacher & LaBore, P.A. at 612-767-7500.

National Arbitration Forum Lawsuit, help for Consumers

Published On: 12th August 2009

        The Attorney General of Minnesota and consumer advocates across the country filed suit against the National Arbitration Forum and some of its credit card company business partners who have been accused of using an illegal scheme to resolving credit card disputes in a fraudulent way.

        Rather than bringing a suit in court, businesses and individuals sometimes choose to have their dispute resolved by an independent third party called an arbitrator. The arbitrator listens to each side present their facts, and renders a decision. The arbitrator purports to be independent and neither for nor against either party at the onset of the proceeding. This procedure is often more efficient, less costly and quicker than a traditional legal court system. Each party agrees to split the cost of the arbitrator-typically at several hundred dollars per hour, agrees to waive their constitutional right to a jury trial, and expects to obtain justice through an unbiased proceeding. Sometimes it works that way. However a massive investigation reveals a pro-business scheme to deprive individuals of constitutional rights and huge sums of money.

        In July 2009, Minnesota’s attorney General, Lori Swanson filed suit after its investigation revealed the National Arbitration Forum-an entity holding itself out to the public as employing independent arbitrators and charged with resolving thousands of consumer credit card disputes, was owned by and corporately affiliated with a major consumer debt collection agency.
The fine print in almost every credit card agreement requires that the consumer waive its constitutional right to a trial by jury and that a dispute be resolved exclusively through a private system of binding arbitration-meaning no right to appeal. Credit card consumers did not know that the Forum works alongside creditors-behind the scenes and against the interests of consumers to convince creditors to place mandatory –pre-dispute arbitration clauses in the customer agreements and to appoint the Forum as the arbitrator of any disputes.

        The Attorney General’s lawsuit tells of the Forum hiding from the public that the forum is financially affiliated with a New York Hedge fund group that owns one of the country’s major debt collection enterprises. Through several transactions, the hedge fund took control of the country’s largest debt collectors and became affiliated with the Forum-the country’s largest debt collection arbitration company.  When a consumer uses the National Arbitration Forum, they are told that the Forum has “no relationship with any party”, and “does not counsel our users”. Such comments are not true. The lawsuit tells that the National Arbitration Forum works closely with creditors behind the scenes to:
        1) Encourage credit card companies to file arbitration claims to collect debt from consumers
        2) Write arbitrations clauses to use in credit card agreements
        3) Advise credit card companies on arbitration legal trends
        4) Sometime write complaints to be used and filed against consumers
        5) Sends the credit card companies to debt collecting firms-that in turn sends the case to the National Arbitration Forum for          arbitration to resolve the dispute

        It gets worse, the lawsuit also tells of the Forum telling collection agencies that the Forum “aligns itself AGAINST CONSUMERS” specifically telling the debt collectors and credit card companies that “the customer does not know what to expect from Arbitration and is more willing to pay.” That consumers “ask you to explain what arbitration is then basically hand you the money,”
The attorney General also wrote that the National Arbitration Forum even tells the credit card companies and debt collector that; “[y]ou have all the leverage [in arbitration] and the customer really has no choice but take care of the account”—It seems the NAF is telling creditors that using the Forum as arbitrators is a guarantee recovery and win.
        In fact in one complaint filed by a consumer advocate reported that when the Forum served as “independent” arbitrators in California- in 99.8% of the time, the Forum sided with the credit card companies and against consumers. A biased decision that benefits credit card companies costs consumers thousands of dollars and destroys trust in the arbitration system as a whole.
       

        “I think the activity of the Forum taints the entire arbitration process. Consumers are unwilling to place their trust in a system that allows powerful players to manipulate the individual consumer.  Individuals have developed a mistrust of the system-believing the justice system is rigged in favor of big business. This Lawsuit filed against the National Arbitration Forum identifies facts that fuel this belief. Attorney General Swanson’s suit on behalf of consumers helps bring back the faith that the “justice for the little guy” is still important in this country. I applaud the work she did in this case.”

                -Attorney Gale D. Pearson, Pearson Randall, Schumacher & Labor, PA. , a law firm that practices in the area of consumer        protection law, and is working on issues relevant to this case.
        The suit filed by the Attorney General is asking for injunctive relief and civil penalties. Several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals to seek recovery of monies paid pursuant to a decision awarded in arbitration using the National Arbitration Forum in favor of the following companies: American Express, Bank of America, MBNA Corporation, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, Capital One Financial Corporation, Capital One Bank (USA), NA Capital One, NA, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Inc, Discover Card and others.

        This website is to provide legal advice as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation. In addition to providing related information this blog may also be considered an advertisement for legal services.�
        If you are interested in learning more about consumer protection law in Minnesota or the National Arbritration Forum lawsuit (NAF), please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding the obligations of the facility and your rights as a resident or concerned family member. To contact attorney Gale Pearson, directly please send an email to gpearson@prslegal.com, or call Gale at 612-767-7500.

Proper Method to Change Wound Dressing for Nursing Home Residents

Published On: 3rd July 2009

One of the most common type of preventable injury to residents of nursing homes and other elder care facilities is pressure ulcers which I have blogged on in the past. One of the ways to ensure proper healing once a wound has appeared is to clean the pressure ulcer and to change the dressing frequently. I came across these YouTube video showing the correct way to change a pressure ulcer or other wound dressing:0 Proper Method to Change Wound Dressing for Nursing Home Residents

0 Proper Method to Change Wound Dressing for Nursing Home Residents

This website is not intended to provide legal advice as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or abuse in a nursing home or other care facility that serves the elderly in Minnesota, please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding the obligations of the facility and your rights as a resident or concerned family member. To contact attorney Kenneth LaBore, directly please send an email to klabore@prslegal.com, or call Ken at 612-767-7503.

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