In October, we told you about an unexpected move by Citi to let credit card customers opt-out of the mandatory arbitration clause in their credit card agreements. The catch: they required you to write an old-fashioned letter to them to do so. (See story.)
We heard from a reader, Daniel D., who says that is not the only dirty trick that Citi employs with respect to its arbitration clause. He said his bank account contract had a very similarly worded provision to this one in the new Citi credit card agreements:
What does this sound like to you? It sounds pretty positive as an additional way to avoid arbitration. It certainly gives the impression that the customer was free to go to small claims court system instead of being forced into arbitration.
And that is exactly what our reader did. He had a dispute with Citi over some late fees imposed despite his having overdraft protection. There was about $350 in dispute.
To his amazement, once he filed in small claims court, Citi requested the case be moved to a higher court. That action caused the case to no longer “stay in small claims court” and thus Citi could force him into arbitration.
Anyone reading the small claims court provision would come away with the understanding that it was the plaintiff’s decision to keep a case in small claims court and definitely not Citi’s. Implied in every contract is a covenant of good faith, and it certainly seems to be a breach of that good faith for Citi to force this consumer into arbitration by a bit of legal trickery.
Daniel’s problem with Citi began in 2010 and appeared to end when he won the arbitration this past August. There were just two problems: (1) Daniel was not awarded anywhere near the $100,000 he said this whole fiasco cost him, and (2) Citi is appealing.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts below.