United States: CFPB Builds Its Case Against Arbitration Clauses


The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) mandated a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) study on the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer financial products and services with a report of its findings sent to Congress. The Dodd-Frank Act also authorized the CFPB to prohibit or impose conditions or limitations on the use of arbitration clauses if the CFPB determines that it is in the public interest and for the protection of consumers. The CFPB first launched a public inquiry on arbitration clauses in April 2012.

On December 12, 2013, the CFPB published its Arbitration Study Preliminary Results: Section 1028(a) Study Results to Date (Preliminary Results). The CFPB has indicated these results are only an initial portion of the statutorily-mandated report and are subject to revision and further analysis. The CFPB has indicated that its report to Congress will contain additional analyses that the CFPB is planning to conduct but for which CFPB does not yet have preliminary results. The CFPB claims that its Preliminary Results are not indicative of its ultimate assessment; however, its findings bode ill for those exercising their rights under the Federal Arbitration Act. The CFPB seems poised to conclude that consumers are better served by the class action system, despite its well-documented abuses.


The CPFB focused its research on three markets: consumer credit card, checking account, and general purpose reloadable prepaid cards.

The CFPB studied the incidence and features of arbitration clauses.

  • Only 17% of credit card issuers included arbitration clauses in their credit card agreement. Of those, 58% of the 50 largest bank issuers used arbitration clauses.
  • 7.7% of banks, including 62% of the top 50 banks, included arbitration clauses in their checking account contracts.
  • Most consumers agreed to arbitrate disputes as a result of the use of arbitration clauses by large institutions.
  • 9 out of 10 arbitration clauses barred class proceedings.

The CFPB studied various forms of legal dispute resolution available to consumers.

  • 72% of consumer arbitration filings were initiated by the consumer.
  • The Preliminary Results identified 870 credit card cases brought by consumers in small claims court against large credit card issuers compared to 41,000 cases brought by these issuers against consumers in small claims court.
  • The Preliminary Results identified total class settlement recoveries in excess of $350 million for more than 13 million class members, resulting in an average recovery of $27 per class member. By comparison, the Preliminary Results indicated that the average alleged amount in dispute for consumer arbitration filings was $13,418.
  • The CFPB discussed the use of class proceedings as a benchmark for comparison.
  • The Preliminary Results cited a low opt-out rate for class settlements as an indication of consumer reluctance to proceed with arbitration.
  • The CFPB noted that class litigation stands to provide some benefit to all income and demographic segments.


The Preliminary Results indicated that the CFPB has a number of phases of work in progress or under consideration. They include studies of other consumer financial products or services, such as private student loans. The CFPB also plans to research the incidences and outcomes of litigation where companies invoke arbitration agreements; consumer benefits and transaction costs in consumer financial services class actions; whether class actions exert improper pressure on defendants to settle meritless claims; and the possible impact of arbitration clauses on consumer products.


As indicated in the Preliminary Results, there has been increased criticism of the inclusion of arbitration clauses, especially those that contain class waivers, in consumer contracts since the Supreme Court has twice "rejected the argument that class arbitration was necessary to prosecute claims that might otherwise slip through the legal system" – in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011) and in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S. Ct. 2304 (2013). The hostility towards the decisions is further evidenced by the hearing held by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary entitled "The Federal Arbitration Act and Access to Justice: Will Recent Supreme Court Decisions Undermine the Rights of Consumers, Workers, and Small Businesses?" on December 17, 2013. Senator Al Franken presided over the hearing. On May 7, 2013, Senator Franken reintroduced legislation, entitled the Arbitration Fairness Act, seeking to ban mandatory arbitration clauses. He had originally introduced the legislation in 2011.


The Preliminary Results addressed a wide swath of issues beyond the language used in arbitration provisions for consumer financial products and services. Though the Preliminary Results touched upon each opportunity for legal dispute resolution, its findings, particularly the focus on class proceedings, seem to be geared towards the conclusion that class proceedings are needed to protect consumers – the argument that the Supreme Court rejected in Concepcion and Italian Colors. We can expect that, after completing its study, the CFPB will issue a rulemaking that either bans or limits the use of arbitration clauses with class waivers in connection with financial products.

Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morrison & Foerster LLP. All rights reserved

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Kay Fitz-Patrick
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.