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Debt Disputes: Are They Unfair Fights?

Readers argued vigorously about "Banks vs. Consumers," our June 16 Cover Story on the booming business of resolving credit-card disputes and the way in which one firm, the National Arbitration Forum, dominates the industry. Many agreed with NAF's critics that the firm's decisions favor creditors at the expense of unsophisticated debtors. Others, though, asked for proof that the court system is any fairer when it comes to delinquent consumers. And while some lamented the mandatory arbitration clauses in credit-card agreements, at least one reader refused to be "incensed" that borrowers have to pay off their debt "according to the terms they agreed to." —Robert Berner and Brian Grow

I'm an attorney and a law clerk for a [federal] judge. In the default judgments we process, the consumer's debt must be legitimate and service [of the notice of default] has to be proven.

The arbitration awards we see, when they come to us for confirmation, offer none of these protections. Because of state and federal laws, there's little judges can do. Good luck overturning an arbitration award in court.

Screen name: Adam

Consumers' arbitration win rates are nearly identical to their win rates in court. And arbitration's simplified procedures and hearings based on available documents make it easy for consumers to assert a defense. There is no indication of arbitrator bias.

Harold Kalina Mediator/Arbitrator

National Arbitration Forum

MINNEAPOLIS

Consumers rarely have a choice about mandatory arbitration. If they do have the chance to opt out, they don't realize it and don't know why it may benefit them to do so.

Screen name: Gerri Detweiler

Let me get this straight: Consumers use the bank's money, and we are supposed to be incensed when they are forced to pay it back according to the terms they agreed to? Excuse me if I'm not shocked and outraged.

Screen name: Dom Portwood

No Tears for the 'Not-So-Rich'

The problem for many American families is that they seem to have lost the ability to tell the difference between a want and a need ("Taxing the Not-So-Rich' Rich," What's Next, June 16). Sitting in your backyard pool (with what looks to be a couple of $50,000 cars in the background) is no place to be complaining about not having enough money for a college or retirement fund.

Everyone is having trouble. Some people have chosen to have things rather than money.

Steve Farr

LOCATION WITHHELD

The Hammers are making $300,000 a year, and I'm supposed to worry that they don't "feel" wealthy?

Kevin Hovan

NORTH CANTON, OHIO

Needed: Small Plug-Ins for the Daily Commute

Unfortunately, General Motors (GM) is focused on reinventing the family sedan ("GM: Live Green or Die," In Depth, May 26). What we really need and what the market is clamoring for are small electric vehicles that can go 50 to 60 miles on an overnight charge. How about using gasoline-powered or hybrid cars for long trips and electric cars for everyday commuting?

Screen name: Bill


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