CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood

PETITIONER: CompuCredit Corporation, et al.
RESPONDENT: Wanda Greenwood, et al.
LOCATION: U.S. Congress

DOCKET NO.: 10-948
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 565 US (2012)
GRANTED: May 02, 2011
ARGUED: Oct 11, 2011
DECIDED: Jan 10, 2012

ADVOCATES:
Michael W. McConnell - for the petitioners
Scott L. Nelson - for the respondents

Facts of the case

CompuCredit marketed a subprime credit card under the brand name Aspire Visa to consumers with low or weak credit scores through massive direct-mail solicitations and the Internet. CompuCredit marketed the card and the cards were issued by Columbus Bank and Trust. Wanda Greenwood and other consumers filed suit against Compucredit and Columbus alleging violations of California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL). The lawsuit claimed that the CompuCredit and Columbus' promotional materials were deceptive because they mentioned the credit card fees in small print, buried in other information and not in proximity to the representation that no deposit was required.

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the credit providers' motion to compel arbitration. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The majority explained that a party must adhere to an agreement to arbitrate claims "unless Congress itself has evinced an intention to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies for the statutory rights at issue." Accordingly, the "burden is on the party opposing arbitration to show that Congress intended to preclude a waiver of judicial remedies."

Question

Are claims arising under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1679 et seq., subject to arbitration pursuant to a valid arbitration agreement?

Media for CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 2011 in CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 10, 2012 in CompuCredit Corp. v. Greenwood

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Scalia has our opinion in Case 10-948, Compucredit Corporation versus Greenwood.

Antonin Scalia:

This is another case from the Ninth Circuit.

The respondents are individual who applied for and received a credit card marketed and issued by the petitioners.

In their applications, respondents agreed to resolve any claims against petitioners by binding arbitration.

In 2008, they filed a class action complaint against petitioners in Federal District Court alleging, as relevant here, violations of the Credit Repair Organizations Act.

That Act regulates the practices of credit repair organizations, which are defined as certain entities that offer services for the purpose of improving a consumer's credit record, credit history or credit rating.

The claims in the case largely involve petitioners' allegedly misleading representation that the credit card could be used to rebuild poor credit and their assessment of multiple fees upon opening of the accounts which greatly reduced the advertised credit limit.

The District Court denied petitioners' motion to compel arbitration of the claims, concluding that Congress intended claims under the Credit Repair Organizations Act to be nonarbitrable.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed.

We granted certiorari and now reverse.

The background law governing the issue before us is the Federal Arbitration Act.

It requires courts to enforce agreements to arbitrate according to their terms.

That is the case even when the claims at issue are federal statutory claims unless the FAA's mandate has been overridden by a contrary congressional command.

We hold that the Credit Repair Organizations Act contains no such override.

The Act does not expressly forbid arbitration but respondents point to the Act's disclosure provision, which sets forth a statement that the credit repair organization must provide to the consumer before any contract is executed.

One sentence of that required statement, and -- and it's verbatim, in the statute reads as follows, "You have a right to sue a credit repair organization that violates the Credit Repair Organizations Act.

Respondents maintain that this provision gives consumers the right to sue in a court of law and because the Act also prohibits the waiver of any rights that it provides, the arbitration agreement, which waived the right to bring an action in a court of law, cannot be enforced.

We disagree.

The disclosure provision creates only a right for consumers to receive a specific statement set forth in the statute, describing in layman’s terms and does necessarily incompletely the consumer rights that the law elsewhere provides.

It purports to be not a creation of rights but a summary of rights created under other provisions.

The right to which the right to sue language refers is contained in the Act's civil liability provision which gives consumers the right to enforce a credit repair organization's "liability" for failure to comply with the Act.

Respondents point out that that provision, the one that does create the right, uses terms such as "action", "class action" and "court", terms that call to mind judicial proceedings, but arbitration awards are enforced and can be challenged in court.

The fact that ultimately consumers under the Act have a right to go to court does not establish that they have a right to initial judicial enforcement displacing the provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act.

We have held that similar provisions in other statutes do not preclude arbitration agreements.

At the time of enactment of the Credit Repair Organizations Act in 1996, arbitration clauses in contracts of the type at issue here were no rarity.

Quite the contrary, the early 1990's saw the increased use of arbitration clauses in consumer contracts generally and in financial services contracts in particular.

Had Congress meant to prohibit these very common provisions, it would have done so in a manner much more direct than what respondents suggest.

Because the Credit Repair Organizations Act is simply silent on whether claims under the Act can proceed in an arbitrable form, the Federal Arbitration Act requires the arbitration agreement here to be enforced according to its terms.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

Justice Sotomayor has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Kagan joins.