Portland Bike-Share Bars Lawsuits

Nike-sponsored Biketown is Portland’s premier bike-share program. A thousand bright red-orange bikes eagerly await commuters at one hundred stations across downtown and local neighborhoods. At $2.50/ hour or $12 for a full day, these bikes are attractive and convenient options for city transportation. The program launched in July 2016 with extremely promising results. A total of 136,000 miles were traveled over 59,000 trips in its very first month. Biketown allows locals and tourists alike to traverse our bike-friendly city easily and relatively cheaply; yet what consumers may not know is that with each Biketown agreement they sign, they waive their constitutional right to a civil jury trial in court if something goes awry.

How Forced Arbitration Impacts Consumers

Arbitration clauses were developed as an informal, expedited method of resolving common disputes among businesses. The model does not work well when a consumer is pitted against a corporation, for these two entities are not equal.

Companies that include forced arbitration clauses in their user agreements try to paint them as user-friendly alternatives to complicated and unpleasant court proceedings. Little do most people know that arbitration is heavily biased toward the corporation. It is also generally not a more cost-effective approach to dispute resolution than taking someone to court.

Portland’s Biketown yet Another Peddler of Forced Arbitration

The program boasts it is the perfect solution for one-way trips around town. Its own website states it is “fun, affordable, and convenient;” yet, in the depths of the Biketown User Agreement there is a forced arbitration clause buried in the section titled “Binding Arbitration; Class Action Waiver” that prevents users of the popular bike-share program from pursuing their claims in court or as part of a class action settlement. The only solution the contract provides is to pursue mandatory arbitration to resolve disputes.

A portion of the clause reads:

“You agree that any dispute or Claim relating in any way to Your use of the Services will be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than in court.”

Forced arbitration clauses have long stripped away the rights of consumers to stand up to corporations for wrongdoing. Over the past 30-odd years, companies have used these clauses as shields against taking responsibility for violating a myriad of consumer protections. These clauses are everywhere —

By |April 14th, 2017|Bicycle Accidents|

Top 7 Ways Forced Arbitration Harms Consumers

Arbitration is a dispute resolution alternative that aims to keep court costs down and quicken the time it takes to reach an agreement between two parties. Originally, arbitration was used to settle matters between two companies on equal footing. Today, arbitration is used by large corporations against consumers who are at a blatant disadvantage, having few resources and no power in the industry. While arbitration was first intended as an alternative for parties in mutual agreement of using arbitration instead of taking matters to court, these days millions of consumers are forced into it without even realizing it. Talk to an attorney if you believe you are bound by an arbitration clause in your personal injury case.

Where Can I Find Arbitration Clauses?

Arbitration clauses are hidden in contracts of everything from the terms and conditions of your credit or debit card to your cable, internet, or Netflix subscription. If you are a fan of shopping online, you may be surprised to know that Amazon’s Conditions of Use subjects shoppers to binding arbitration to resolve disputes. Even some healthcare providers hide these in the paperwork you have to fill out before a doctor will see you. Nursing homes and adult care facilities may also include arbitration clauses in their contracts, although changes to the laws allowing this are currently in progress.

How does Arbitration Hurt?

When a powerful entity such as a hospital is pitted against a single consumer, it rarely works out well for the consumer in the end. Arbitration is cheap for the company that mandates arbitration, and it is a high-cost pursuit for the claimant who wishes to proceed with the complaint. The “neutral third party” who is in charge of deciding an appropriate course of action is usually a retired judge, a judge who does arbitration as a source of extra income, or a lawyer trained in arbitration. These arbitrators have usually been hired several times by the same company and have a chummy relationship with the company, automatically inserting bias into the supposedly “neutral” nature of their position. Ultimately, forced arbitration is currently an accepted way for companies to strip consumers of their legal right to sue.

High Costs to Pursue Claim

To begin the arbitration process, claimants

By |April 12th, 2017|Protecting Oregonians|