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Assignment: Please locate an arbitration / dispute resolution provision in a contract to which you are a party. This will most likely be for wireless services, a credit card, an app, etc. (Even if you are not a party to such an agreement, please locate such an agreement online and locate the arbitration / dispute resolution provision.) Your assignment is to investigate and answer the following questions with regard to the arbitration program:
a. Did you take the time to read these contents before signifying your acceptance of the agreement? (Remember that, generally speaking, a failure to read terms and conditions will not operate as a defense against their enforcement under U.S. contract law.)
b. Clarity and transparency. Where is the agreement to arbitration contained in your contract? How easy is it to locate? Under what heading or section title does it appear? Is the language clear and understandable? Does the provision reference or incorporate separate rules or procedures, and, if so, how easy is it to locate and review them?
c. Administration. Can you tell how the program is administered, and by whom? Is it an independent organization? Can you tell who pays the fees of administration?
d. Arbitrators. How are the arbitrators selected, and by whom? Are they selected from a panel, or subject to experiential or other requirements? Who pays the arbitrators’ fees and expenses?
e. Procedures. How are filings of claims made, and what kind of notice is required for the filing of a demand? May you be represented by an attorney, if desired? If need be, can you obtain critical documents or testimony from the company? What kind of a hearing are you entitled to, and when and where will it be held? How long will it take to obtain relief? Can you bring a claim as part of a class action or collective action by other consumers/employees? To what extent is the proceeding confidential, and how does this affect your ability to share information with third parties? Are you permitted the option of pursuing relief in small claims court?
f. Outcomes (awards and remedies). Are there any limitations on your ability to obtain relief that might be available in court, including punitive damages or statutory remedies? Will the award contain any form of rationale? Is the loser required to pay for attorney fees and arbitration costs?
Are you comfortable with these procedures? What relative advantages or disadvantages do they present in comparison to going to court? In reaching your answer, what difference does it make whether any claims you might have are likely to be relatively small—say, no more than $100 or $200?