My dear friend the Mad Dog did a stretch at everyone’s favorite auto-funded, unaccountable bureaucracy, and feels somewhat protective of this recent governmental metastasis. He demonstrated his filial pride this morning on Facebook, offering a link to a Consumerist article on recent goings on.
I’m glad he did, as I found it some of the funnier stuff I’ve read lately. Behold the first paragraph:
Many bank accounts, and almost all credit cards, wireless services, private student loans, and payday loans contain clauses in their contracts that strip consumers of their right to sue these companies, and their right to join others in a class action, effectively allowing businesses to sidestep the legal system. While lawmakers in Congress debate the issue, and the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly given its approval to these practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is making good on its pledge to restore consumers’ constitutional right to having their day in court.
So let’s see… when businesses “effectively[…] sidestep the legal system” (with the approval of the Supreme Court and with at worst the benign neglect of Congress), that’s a bad thing. But when a bunch of unelected bureaucrats decide to contravene that and circumvent the process by which changes are supposed to occur, huzzahs all around.
Yes, we know that your eyes glaze over when you read the words “mandatory binding arbitration,” and that’s exactly what companies that use these clauses want — for consumers to be so bored by legalese and fine print that they just shrug and sign away their rights without knowing it.
No need to worry about anyone’s eyes glazing over when the CFPB acts, though. Their rules are even less likely to be read by Joe or Jane Consumer, unless said consumer happens to love reading the Federal Register, which is known for crystalline prose.
Now whether or not you happen to like the idea of forced arbitration as a means of settling disputes with financial service providers, the fact remains that there was already a system in place to deal with this potential problem. (There’s also the fact that no one is forced to sign unread contracts with banks, but for the sake of argument, we’ll proceed from the Mad Dog’s apparent position that consumers are utterly devoid of things like agency and personal responsibility.) Congress has chosen not to deal with the issue. The Supreme Court has chosen to let the issue remain. However, the CFPB, in its divine and august wisdom, has arrogated to itself the ability to take the law into its own hands and go after an unpopular opponent. This is vigilantism with the fig leaf of Dodd-Frank.
Might I suggest a new spokesmascot for the Bureau?
By the way, Mad Dog — that isn’t a compliment.