Protection Bureau Seeks End to Arbitration-Only Clauses in Consumer Contracts

To many businesses, class-action lawsuits are synonymous with ambulance-chasing lawyers extracting multibillion-dollar settlements. They have been called frivolous and are faulted for swelling the legal costs of Wall Street banks and Main Street auto lenders.

For years, financial firms have tried to ward them off by requiring customers to agree not to file class-action suits, but to take their disputes to arbitration instead.

Now, the nation’s consumer watchdog agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — is aiming to reopen the courthouse doors for the tens of millions of people who have signed away their right to sue.

On Wednesday, the agency is set to propose the rough draft of rules that would prevent financial companies from barring their customers from filing class-action litigation as a condition of obtaining credit cards or checking accounts.