Media Coverage

Sorry, But You Probably Can’t Sue Your Bank

For better or worse, Americans tend to take it as an article of faith that if someone does you wrong, you can sue. But banks are quietly adding language to their account terms and services that take away your right to a day in court, and the law is on their side.

In lieu of lawsuits, they require mandatory arbitration, which basically means that you can’t sue your bank in court, but instead are forced to have disputes resolved by a designated arbitrator, a kind of professional referee. Banks often combine arbitration clauses with language that also prohibits customers from banding together to file a class-action lawsuit.


A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that about half of the 100 biggest banks and credit unions in the country mandate arbitration. The bigger the bank, the higher the likelihood: 56% of the top 50 banks require it, compared to 30% of the bottom 50 on the group’s list. Three-quarters of banks that mandate arbitration also prohibit their customers from filing class-action lawsuits.

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