British Executive Club Has Arbitration: Finally!

8

Disclaimer #1: The following is not legal advice. Contact Bachuwa Law if you have an issue with BA. 


Disclaimer #2: The following is not a discussion. I don’t care to hear from pundits who think that class action is the way to go for consumers looking to actually obtain real settlements, not a can of Red Bull (see No Class-Actions Against Banks? So What).


Now that we have that out of the way, let me also attack Lucky.  In his misinformed piece, British Airways Updates Executive Club Terms, Adds Class Action Waiver & Arbitration Agreement, he wrote “You’ve gotta love British Airways adding an arbitration agreement and class action waiver during a pandemic.” Lucky was being sarcastic, but if he understood how well consumer arbitration can work, he should consider himself lucky that this is the way disputes are resolved.

Why?

Reason #1: Leverage

What leverage does a tiny consumer have against a big company when a dispute arises? Next to none. Corporations have a team of lawyers and unlimited resources to crush any consumer dissent. In consumer arbitration, the speckle of leverage that consumers have is that the corporation pays for the majority of the arbitration (consumers pay up to $200 and the corporation pays tens of thousands). Most companies, especially if a consumer is not represented by a lawyer, will find it more beneficial to settle an individual case than spend $10,000 on arbitration costs and legal fees fighting a $10 dispute.

Enter BA. Prior to this gift to consumers for resolving claims, the way to resolve a dispute against BA was using the tried and true legal method of HUCA. For non-lawyers, that means Hang Up Call Again. For most of us, that meant listening to that childhood lullaby hold music before finally being transferred to a disinterested customer service representative who would apologize and say that there was nothing that could be done. The litigious among us would not be dissuaded by predictable bad customer service. We would continue to fight.

Reason #2:  Do It From Your Couch 

Prior to consumer arbitration, the next step to resolving the dispute was to file a small claims case. I have extensive experience in that arena as well. Although I filed a small claims case against BA and it successfully settled before I stepped foot into court (see Should You Record Your Calls for Quality Assurance?), I’ve filed other claims against other companies and found the process to be a disaster (see No Justice In Small Claims Court). (If you do have to go to small claims because there is not an arbitration agreement, first read Small Claims Court, A First-Hand Tutorial.)

Instead of going to a crowded courthouse over and over and having to wait for your name to be called, simply email a demand for arbitration. Then you can just lie back and wait for the company to come to you. Clearly, this beats dealing with a socially un-distanced courthouse.

Reason #3: Real Results

So what are the results? As a lawyer, I have to say that results are not guaranteed (that’s disclaimer #3). As a lawyer who refused to sign a confidentiality agreement (see The Successful Fight Against A Citi Shutdown), I can openly and truthfully say that I have settled cases for thousands of dollars for many clients by filing consumer arbitration claims.

Overall

Fighting companies is a never-ending battle. Corporations will never change their shady practices. That doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. It also doesn’t mean that you should run to the first lawyer you know and parrot out, “Class action!” when something doesn’t go your way. First, these arbitration clauses eliminate class actions so your fanciful class action will not get off the ground. Second, a point worth repeating is that class actions overwhelmingly benefit lawyers’ pockets. Meanwhile you the consumer may receive a nominal statement credit for your inconvenience. Once again, the minuscule consumer gets next to nothing and the big law firm, which lest there be any doubt is also a company, takes mostly everything.

Though small claims may be an option and it may work, it is an unnecessary hassle with random results. While far from perfect, consumer arbitration is presently the best option.

Don’t believe me? Try it yourself without a lawyer and share your results. Until then, please don’t share your two cents because I charge by the hour to read and respond to them.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Why do you think companies push so hard for arbitration? Hint, it’s not because it helps the plaintiff.

    Arbitration, at least in the U.S. does not benefit the consumer in the majority of cases, at least so says the data. Additionally it removes a perfectly legal option for remediation.

    To be so dismissive of opposing (and more accurate) view points… I would be curious what kind of law you practice and a profile of your clients.

    • Obviously you didn’t visit my website. So your reaction is based on nothing. Hint: why would I practice consumer arbitration law if we never won or settled?

  2. Mandatory arbitration guarantees that consumers are represented — to the extent they are represented at all — by lawyers for whom the tiny amounts at stake in an individual arbitration are sufficient to incentivize them to take the matter on. Mandatory arbitration therefore guarantees that the company foisting arbitration on its consumers have lawyers of a level available to a resourceful corporation, while consumers . . . don’t.

    Class actions lump together enough small claims to allow consumers to attract legal counsel of the same calibre normally only available to a corporation, giving them a fair fight, and raising the price of poker for corporations avoiding legitimate consumer claims. If arbitration were good for consumers, corporations would let consumers choose, rather than eliminating that choice and instead shoving mandatory arbitration agreements down their throats.

    • Thanks for the unintentional insult. I am on the same level, if not better, than those corporate lawyers you think are so intelligent. Your argument is based on nothing but supposition. I have data e.g., settlement checks for my clients (not for me) that are a lot bigger than a class action can of red bull. And like everyone, you miss the point that there is no class action available for many of these consumer issues! Move on or get nothing.

  3. I’m trying to figure out if I understand this correctly…

    In class action:
    – Consumer: gets nothing
    – Lawyers: get ton of money
    – Companies: lose ton of money

    In arbitration:
    – Consumer: gets some money
    – Lawyers: get some money
    – Companies: lose some money

    So if (some + some) in arbitration < (nothing + ton) in class action, it makes sense for Companies to prefer arbitration as the lesser of two evils. With less people actively pursuing arbitration, the total damage from arbitration would result in less of a loss for companies than class action.

    If i understand that correctly, then companies are not evil for requiring arbitration, it’s just a business decision on their part with class action lawyers, not consumers, really getting screwed.

  4. What are your thoughts on companies firing arbitrators that decide against them too many times? Obviously not the official reason, but it creates perverse incentives for the arbitrators.

Leave a Reply