Apple’s new credit card is rolling out in stages to interested users (I got mine Monday!) and the early reception is generally positive. The card’s primary draw isn’t in its benefits, which are perfectly fine but not outstanding by any metric, but instead lies with its tight vertical integration with the Apple technology ecosystem and the (hopefully) increased security one gains by moving to using tokenized payments for (most of) your point-of-sale transactions. The card otherwise has a lot in common with other traditional credit cards—and, unfortunately, one of those things is the Apple Card’s forced arbitration provision.
Briefly, this means that there is language in the Apple Card/Goldman Sachs’ customer agreement that requires customers to give up their right to file lawsuits against Goldman or Apple, either individually or as members of a class, and instead forces customers into accepting binding arbitration to resolve disputes. Although binding arbitration is frequently defended by proponents as being faster and less expensive than lawsuits, arbitration heavily favors companies over consumers in disputes. The arbitrator or arbitrators are typically chosen by the company engaging in arbitration and tend to favor the company’s interests; studies show that in the vast majority of cases, the odds of winning are heavily on the company’s side. The bias in arbitration outcomes has been taken advantage of by numerous companies—including companies we regularly cover—to engage in some truly shady dealings.
(It’s not just consumers who get shafted by arbitration—many companies force their own employees into mandatory arbitration, too, though a number of employers are beginning to walk back the practice.)