March 16, 2015
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau posted its Arbitration Study. This is a report to Congress that was required by Dodd-Frank. By way of background, the study states that
Companies provide almost all consumer financial products and services subject to the terms of a written contract. Whenever a consumer obtains a consumer financial product such as a credit card, a checking account, or a payday loan, he or she typically receives the company’s standard form, written legal contract.
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As a general rule, the parties to a dispute can agree, after the dispute arises, to submit the dispute for resolution to a forum other than a court — for example, to submit a particular dispute that has arisen to resolution by an arbitrator. (3)
Arbitration provisions typically do not directly apply to residential mortgages because Dodd-Frank “prohibited the use of ‘arbitration or any other nonjudicial procedure’ for resolving disputes arising from residential mortgage loans or extensions of credit under an open-end consumer credit plan secured by the principal dwelling of the consumer. 15 U.S.C. § 1639c.” (Arbitration Study § 5.4, n.34) But they can apply in mortgage-related contracts, such as those for title insurance, mortgage insurance and forced-place flood insurance. (§ 8.3, n.24 & Appendix S, § 8)
The Study thus holds some interest for those of us interested housing finance. The Executive Summary (§ 1.4) provides an overview of the CFPB’s research findings about arbitrations and other proceedings.
My overall impression after having reviewed the report is that consumers do not often raise claims against consumer finance companies in any forum, whether with an arbitrator or with a judge. The Study does not provide any information that would allow one to conclude what the socially optimal level of formalized disputes would be. It would be helpful for the CFPB to try to model that.| Permalink