Overnight Regulation: Dems urge regulators to protect consumer lawsuits

Welcome to Overnight Regulations, your daily rundown of news from Capitol Hill and beyond. It's Monday evening here in Washington and we're still adjusting to the time change. It may be dark out after work, but at least it's still somewhat warm. Here's the latest. 

 

THE BIG STORY

Democrats are calling on regulators to protect consumers' right to settle disputes with companies in court.

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP MORE (D-Minn.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) joined legal experts with the American Association for Justice on Monday to highlight a New York Times investigation that found more companies stripping consumers of the ability to file class-action lawsuits.

According to The New York Times report, companies have devised a way to circumvent the courts through arbitration clauses. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The clauses typically state that disputes about a product can only be resolved by privately appointed individuals or arbitrators, rather than through the court system, and bar consumers from bringing group claims through the arbitration process.

"Forced arbitration is not voluntary, it's not just and it's not fair," Johnson said in a call with reporters Monday. "Simply put, it's not American."

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced last month it's considering proposing rules to keep financial companies from being able to block consumers from bringing class action lawsuits, but advocates said the agency should do even more to protect consumers.

"These dishonest agreements force consumers to unknowingly give away their rights," said Linda Lipsen, CEO for the American Association for Justice, which represents the nation's trial lawyers. "Arbitrators are not required to follow the law and their decisions are almost impossible to appeal."

Franken introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act earlier this year, but on Monday said he's had trouble getting Republican support.

The legislation would make arbitration agreements unenforceable in employment, consumer, antitrust or civil rights disputes. Johnson introduced companion legislation in the House, but neither bill has yet made it out of committee.

Lawmakers in the GOP-led House have instead moved forward with legislation from Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) to set new limits on class action lawsuits. 

 

ON TAP FOR TUESDAY

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law will hold a hearing to examine data brokers and focus on whether consumers' information is secure. http://1.usa.gov/20lJWHT

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing to discuss security gaps in the Transportation Security Administration. http://1.usa.gov/1WrWy0G

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing to examine legislation to improve Medicare and Medicaid. http://1.usa.gov/1jSoaLu

 

TOMORROW'S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration will publish 164 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Tuesday's edition of the Federal Register.

--The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will issue new guidance for pharmaceutical companies developing drugs to treat HIV.

The HIV guidance will instruct drugmakers in all phases of development, according to the FDA.

The public can submit comments at any time. http://bit.ly/1KUDtsf

--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue new water pollution rules to protect the environment and public health.

The water pollution rules will limit the amount of toxic metals and other harmful chemicals emitted by steam electric power generating plants, according to the agency.

The EPA says steam electric power plants are the largest contributors to surface water pollution.

"The pollutants discharged by this industry can cause severe health and environmental problems in the form of cancer and non-cancer risks in humans, lowered IQ among children, and deformities and reproductive harm in fish and wildlife," the agency wrote.

The final rule goes into effect in 60 days. http://bit.ly/1P6uoEe

--The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue a list of laboratories that are approved to drug test government employees.

The HHS's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration updates the list each month. http://bit.ly/1MCWLtv

--The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will propose new rules of practice for patent trials and appeals.

The public has until Nov. 18 to comment. http://bit.ly/20oB703

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW

EPA cracking down on water pollution. http://bit.ly/1NmruJZ

FDA issues guidelines for HIV drugs. http://bit.ly/1Ojp7ZX

Firefighters, lawmakers rally for 9/11 healthcare. http://bit.ly/1RL4aET

Feds: VW rigged emissions systems on Porches, Audis. http://bit.ly/1XKj16u

Senate Dems: Bill coal industry for climate costs. http://bit.ly/1Phi0Qv

Top Republican says ObamaCare could 'collapse' this year. http://bit.ly/1Q2wx46

FCC looks to 'nutritional labels' for Internet service shopping. http://bit.ly/1l4sKGT

Google aims for drone deliveries in 2017. http://bit.ly/1LMGuyD

Obama's court quagmire. http://bit.ly/1Q5PHFn

 

BY THE NUMBERS

79,200: Pounds of arsenic discharged by power plants each year.

65,000: Pounds of lead discharged by power plants each year.

23,600: The miles of rivers and streams affected by these discharges.

(Source: EPA)

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

"When you sign contract, somewhere buried in there is a clause that says if we have a dispute, you can't go to court. You have to go to arbitration," Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a call with reporters Monday.  

 

We’ll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

Click here to sign up for the newsletter: http://bit.ly/1pc6tau