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Sometimes Class Actions Should be Criticized, But Sometimes Not

Corporations like to criticize class actions. While some class actions should not be filed, most criticism comes from the corporations that want to shield themselves from legitimate claims about their products. They constantly devise new ways to limit the rights of people to sue them for their wrongs. For instance, they increasingly write arbitration clauses in contracts, eliminating people's right to take their cases to a jury. Instead, a claim goes before a private arbitrator who charges fees that would not be charged by a court.

Corporations are also including in their contracts clauses that prevent customers from filing class actions and participating as a member of a class action. The result is to deprive the public of realistic ways to recover compensation for defective products, especially when the amount you paid for the product is too small to make it worth hiring a lawyer by yourself to get the money back. For example, one big local retailer of tools, clothes, and appliances among other things just sent out a notice about defective air compressors it sold. The notice tells buyers about a "fix" the retailer proposes they install, but it's clear most folks couldn't install it. The only meaningful way to get the purchase money back is through a class action, because with a class action all the thousands of people who bought these air compressors can hire one lawyer to represent them all.

So beware of arbitration clauses in purchase agreements and clauses forbidding class actions. The next time you hear someone complain about class actions, let them know that a class action may be their only protection against the corporation who sold them a proverbial "bill of goods."

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