Amtrak Wants Passengers to Agree to Arbitration

Amtrak has joined a growing movement of forcing dissatisfied customers to go to arbitration to resolve dispute.

However, the Rail Passengers Association said the policy leaves a lot of unanswered questions, including for group travel because there is no legal authority to accept arbitration terms on behalf of individual travelers.

On it website, RPA said Amtrak’s consumer-arbitration provisions are drawing attention, but the current political climate had made it nearly impossible to fight back.

RPA said arbitration has become the de facto standard throughout the U.S. economy and the courts, Congress and executive branch have all shown little willingness to change it.

Companies typically require customers to sign an agreement when purchasing a produce or service to take disputes before an American Arbitration Association arbitrator rather than going to court.

In a statement posted on its website earlier this year, Amtrak contended that arbitration is more efficient than drawn out legal proceedings and less costly. The statement also contended that passengers could contact Amtrak directly to work out claims rather than go to arbitration.

Consumer advocacy groups argue that forcing customers into binding arbitration agreements effectively means they are signing away their right to civil remedies in court.

They say that the results of arbitration are often worse for consumers than civil court proceedings.

RPA said passengers have few options to avoid arbitration. They could refuse to buy tickets under those terms but that would mean not being able to travel.

They could also file suit in a federal court and argue that their claim or dispute is barred from arbitration by federal law.

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