You know the licensing agreements that you probably never read? Pretty much every time you download software, get a credit card or cell phone, you’re signing an arbitration agreement. What this means is that if you should ever have a case against one of those companies, you would immediately bypass a jury trial in favor of arbitration. Arbitration is similar to a trial, but instead of a jury of your peers, you give your case to a panel of arbiters. Arbiters are legal experts. Some may be judges or other lawyers. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

The problem is when the company pays for the arbiters and choose who they are. That doesn’t exactly seem unbiased and objective. In fact, the company is heavily favored in arbitration. There’s also no appeal in arbitration. Arbitration is yet another way for big companies to gain an advantage over the Average Joe. In a hypothetical case, the company is already at a significant advantage without adding arbitration to the mix. Company’s who use arbitration clauses tend to be larger, which means they have more resources, more experience, and more to lose. Arbitration is becoming a part of every person’s life, and the Supreme Court recently ruled that being ignorant of the clause doesn’t make you exempt. Know what you’re signing, and read those licensing agreements. Because you may find that in the event of a case against one of those companies, the odds will be heavily stacked against you.

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