GOP polling firm: Bipartisan support for consumer bureau arbitration rule

GOP polling firm: Bipartisan support for consumer bureau arbitration rule
© Greg Nash

A Republican polling firm found wide bipartisan support for a new federal rule banning companies from forcing their customers to waive their right to sue in cases of corporate abuse.

American Future Fund (AFF), a GOP polling company, said 67 percent of respondents to a recent phone survey supported the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) recently released rule on forced arbitration clauses, according to results shared first with The Hill on Thursday.

The CFPB rule, released in July, bans companies from using contractual clauses that prevent customers from joining class-action lawsuits if they believe they’ve been wronged by the bank or firm. Such clauses force customers into arbitrated settlements brokered by third-party negotiators, which companies say have better outcomes for customers and reduces costs for all involved.

Despite stark partisan divisions over the rule in Congress, AFF found that majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats support the CFPB regulation. AFF reported that 64 percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents and 74 percent of Democrats who responded to the poll backed the CFPB effort.

“With the news of Equifax’s attempt to use forced arbitration to dodge accountability to consumers for its epic negligence, the forced arbitration rule has graduated from political poison to full-scale toxic sludge,” said AFF founder Nick Ryan.

“It’s becoming ever-clearer that to maintain their political health, Senate Republicans need to distance themselves from efforts to reverse the CFPB rule on forced arbitration,“ he said.

Equifax’s use of arbitration clauses stoked outrage after news broke last month that hackers accessed the personal information of more than 145 million people through the credit report company’s lax cybersecurity protections.

Democrats and progressive nonprofits have defended the CFPB rule, which they say would protect vulnerable consumers from abusive corporations and defend their right to bring the company to court.

But congressional Republicans are attempting to repeal the CFPB rule with support from financial services trade groups and pro-business organizations. Critics call the rule a misguided and overreaching attack on a helpful system for consumers, arguing the CFPB measure helps no one other than trial lawyers.

Repeal efforts have stalled in Congress as Senate GOP leaders mull whether to vote on a bill to repeal the CFPB measure under the Congressional Review Act. The repeal resolution easily passed the House along party lines, but the thin Republican Senate majority and controversy over Equifax’s use of arbitration clauses have delayed a vote.

Support for the CFPB rule jumped when survey respondents were told that Equifax used arbitration clauses, though the rule wouldn’t apply to cases before March 2018. While 67 percent of respondents initially backed the rule, 75 percent expressed support after being told Equifax had used forced arbitration clauses.