But the reality is different. Arbitration can actually cost more. You might have to pay a fee just to get the process started, and if you lose you’re subject to the company’s legal fees. Plus, lawyers are not likely to work on a contingency basis because they don’t like the odds. So just your legal fees will include preparation time plus about $3,000 – $4,000 per day. Companies can also designate the exact location for the hearing, and that might require you to travel  — so you can add that to the cost.

You’re also going against a stacked deck. The company picks the arbitrator, and that individual tends to be, to no one’s surprise, pro-company. So again, to no one’s surprise, your chances of winning, and if you do win, the amount of damages paid to you, will be much lower than you would have gotten in court. As I said, good luck finding a lawyer who will take on such a case without a Per Diem fee.

Lack of transparency means your name won’t be splashed across the TV screen. But this is much more of a benefit to the company than to you. Hiding the process and the findings leaves these cases open to more bias. But the bigger issue is others don’t find out about a company’s wrongdoing, and so can become victims themselves.

In your standard court case, the victim receives some financial relief, but the company may also face an additional monetary penalty. Keep in mind that punitive damages are a tool for accountability — they’re not a means for the victim to become rich, they’re about punishing the company so they won’t do it again. But with mandatory arbitration, this deterrent of bad behavior goes away. Couple that with smaller settlements, and companies get a free pass for low quality and abusive practices.

Here’s another kicker — arbitration rulings are final, and that’s the case even if an arbitrator has made mistakes, and mistakes are bound to happen. Whatever you think of the arbitrator or how your case was handled, it’s very time-consuming and expensive to do anything about it.

Some federal agencies and Congressmen are trying to change the laws so you can get in front of a jury if you’re harmed by a product or service. However, this has been an uphill battle because the Supreme Court tends to defend the use of forced arbitration, and argues that arbitration supersedes other laws and protections on the books. Consequently, mandatory arbitration is not likely to be going away in the foreseeable future.

So, what’s your options? Honestly, they’re extremely limited. You can’t do anything about the contracts that you’ve already signed. For upcoming contracts, all you can do is read the fine print very carefully and don’t just click the box that acknowledges you agree to the “terms and conditions”. If mandatory arbitration is required, you can ask to have that clause eliminated, or you can shop around for another company.

Good luck with that, because, as I said, virtually all companies require forced arbitration, and they don’t negotiate on this policy.

Why would they?