A customer uses a JPMorgan Chase & Co. automatic teller machine (ATM) outside a bank branch in Miami, Florida, on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017.
Scott McIntyre | Bloomberg | Getty Images
JPMorgan Chase is trying to make it harder for its credit card customers to sue the bank in court by requiring them to go into private arbitration to settle disputes.
The opportunity for JPMorgan Chase credit cardholders to opt out of binding arbitration expires in a month.
The bank notified customers in May that their right to sue over grievances connected to their Chase credit cards will go away unless they take some action by the first week in August.
Unlike class action lawsuits that can be brought by a group of aggrieved consumers, arbitration cases generally can be brought only by individuals. And the private process is overseen by a third party rather than an appointed judge.
Up to 47 million customers could be impacted by the change at Chase, including holders of the Slate and Sapphire card.
“Arbitration typically benefits companies over consumers, so it can’t hurt to opt out and open some alternatives,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
Overall, the change in unlikely to have a big impact on consumers, Rossman said. He said the average person receives just $32 in a class action lawsuit.
However, consumer advocates say the outcomes of arbitration are even grimmer. Just 9% of people who bring such claims walk away with relief, according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
And they point to the success consumers have had in previous class action lawsuits.
In 2009, Chase agreed to temporarily drop arbitration clauses from its credit card agreements after a class action lawsuit alleged the bank conspired with Capital One, Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover and HSBC to block consumers’ grievances from the courts.
A few years later, in 2012, Chase agreed to pay $110 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought over its overdraft fees.
More companies are trying to keep their customers out of court. In 2016, 72% of banks included an arbitration clause in their disclosures, up from 59% in 2013, according to Pew Trusts. (The researchers looked at the largest financial institutions.)
If you wish to opt out of the new Chase agreement, you can send a letter to the bank explaining that you, “reject this agreement to arbitrate.” Your notice needs to be mailed to Chase at P.O. Box 15298, Wilmington, DE 19850-5298.
You can also look for a bank that doesn’t try to get you to sign away your right to sue, such as Bank of America, Capital One or TD Bank.