For recent years, several disputes between Korean consumers and multinational companies have arisen. Since the disputes were big and material that children’s safety was at issue, a question started if Korean law properly has protected consumers’ rights against multinational companies. While the Korean legal society tried to legislate punitive compensation with this concern, the U.S. Supreme Court reached an interesting case law regarding consumer contracts. A recent trend on consumer contracts in the United States shows that general terms have arbitration clause with class action waiver. As much as international arbitration has worked as the most effective resolution in international commercial disputes, the concept is still foreign and the experts are not approachable to lay individual consumers. However, class action in arbitration can hugely help for lay individual consumers to bring a case before arbitration tribunal. California courts consistently showed the analysis that the practical impact of prohibiting class action in arbitration clause is to ban lay individual consumers from fighting for their rights. However, the Supreme Court held that the arbitration clause shall be enforced as parties agree even if consumers practically cannot fight for their rights in the end. Even though consumer contracts are a typical example of lack of parity and of adhesive contract, the Supreme Court still applies liberalism that parties are equal in power and free to agree. This case law has a crucial implication since Korean consumers buy goods and services from the U.S. and other countries in everyday life. Accordingly, they are deemed to agree on the dispute resolution clauses, which might violate their constitutional right to bring their cases before the adjudication tribunal. This issue could be more important than adopting punitive compensation because consumers’ rights are not necessarily governed by Korean law but by the governing law of the general terms and conditions chosen and written by the multinational companies. Thus this paper studies and analyzes the practical reality of international arbitration and influence of arbitration clause with class action waiver with the U.S. Supreme Court and California case laws.
Ⅱ. Governing principles of Consumer Contracts
Ⅲ. Definition and Practical Impact of Class Action in Arbitration
Ⅳ. Prohibition of Class Arbitration in Consumer Contracts