This page provides information about the AAA's® administration of consumer arbitrations and links to a number of relevant documents and Rules.

AAA Administration

The AAA administers consumer arbitrations pursuant to the due process standards contained in the AAA's Consumer Due Process Protocol and the AAA’s Consumer Arbitration Rules. The AAA will accept a case for administration only after the AAA reviews the parties’ arbitration agreement and if the AAA determines that the agreement substantially and materially complies with the due process standards of the Rules and the Consumer Due Process Protocol. If the AAA declines to administer a consumer arbitration, either party may submit the dispute to an appropriate court for resolution.

AAA Consumer Arbitration Rules
AAA Consumer Due Process Protocol

Consumer Due Process Protocol

The AAA has been at the forefront in developing standards of fairness for disputes between consumers and businesses. In April 1998, the AAA developed the Consumer Due Process Protocol in cooperation with groups representing government agencies, consumer interest groups and educational institutions, as well as businesses. The goal of the Protocol, in concert with the Consumer Arbitration Rules, is to ensure fairness and even-handedness in the resolution of disputes in arbitration. The AAA exercises its authority to decline administration of arbitration demands where an arbitration clause contains material violations of the Consumer Due Process Protocol.

Key Provisions of the Due Process Protocol:

  • Consumers and businesses have a right to an independent and impartial arbitrator and independent administration of their dispute.
  • Consumers always have a right to representation.
  • Costs of the process for the consumers must be reasonable.
  • Location of the proceeding must be reasonably accessible.
  • No party may have unilateral choice of arbitrator.
  • There shall be full disclosure by arbitrators of any potential conflict or appearance of conflict or previous contact between the arbitrator and the parties. The arbitrator shall have no personal or financial interest in the matter.
  • Arbitrators should be empowered to grant whatever relief would be available in court.
  • All parties retain the right to seek relief in small claims court for disputes or claims within the scope of its jurisdiction.
  • Parties to the dispute must have access to information critical to resolution of the dispute.
  • The use of mediation to foster voluntary resolution of the matter.
  • Clear and adequate notice of the arbitration provision and its consequences, including a statement of its mandatory or optional character.
Searle Civil Justice Institute Study

The Searle Study reviewed a representative sample of approximately 300 AAA consumer arbitration case files that were awarded between April and December of 2007. Among the findings in the Searle study were conclusions about the costs, speed and outcomes of consumer arbitrations administered by the AAA:

  • Consumers won some relief in 53.3% of the cases they filed and recovered an average of $19,255; business claimants won some relief in 83.6% of their cases and recovered an average of $20,648.
  • The upfront cost of arbitration for consumer claimants in cases administered by the AAA appears to be quite low. In cases with claims seeking less than $10,000, consumer claimants paid an average of $96.
  • AAA consumer arbitration seems to be an expeditious way to resolve disputes. The average time from filing to final award for the consumer arbitrations studied was 6.9 months.
  • Arbitrators awarded attorneysʹ fees to prevailing consumer claimants in 63.1% of cases in which the consumer sought such an award.
  • A substantial majority of consumer arbitration clauses in the sample (76.6%) fully complied with the Due Process Protocol when the case was filed.
  • AAAʹs review of arbitration clauses for Protocol compliance was effective at identifying and responding to clauses with Protocol violations. In 98.2% of cases in the sample subject to AAA Protocol compliance review, the arbitration clause either complied with the Due Process Protocol or the non‐compliance was properly identified and responded to by the AAA.
  • The AAA refused to administer a significant number of consumer cases because of Protocol violations by businesses, and as a result of AAAʹs protocol compliance review, some businesses modify their arbitration clauses to make them consistent with the Consumer Due Process Protocol.
  • The complete Searle Civil Justice Institute Study may be found at
Small Claims Court Option

The Consumer Due Process Protocols and the AAA's Consumer Rules permit claimants to bring claims in small claims court rather than arbitration even if the claims fall within the parties’ arbitration clause.

What if I would prefer to go to court rather than use arbitration?

As with all contracts, it is very important to read all of the terms of the agreement. Arbitration agreements are no different so you should carefully read the language in the arbitration agreement. Some companies offer you the ability to opt-out of their arbitration requirement in a contract within a certain time period, usually a period of time after entering into the contract. Opting-out of an arbitration agreement typically means that you would resolve any future disputes in court instead of through arbitration. Most opt-out options have very specific time frames so you will generally need to complete the opt-out process in the time set in the agreement. You will also need to carefully follow any other instructions provided in connection with the opt-out opportunity.

If you are in a contract containing an arbitration clause naming the AAA Rules, you may still be able to bring your dispute in small claims court instead of arbitration, as long as the claim falls within the jurisdiction requirements of the small claims court. In those situations, AAA Rules specifically allow you to file your claim in small claims court instead of arbitration. For more specific information, see the AAA’s Consumer Arbitration Rules, R-9. Small Claims Option for the Parties.


In consumer arbitration proceedings, the consumer’s administrative fee is capped at $200. The business pays the arbitrator’s compensation unless the consumer–post dispute–voluntarily elects to pay a portion of the arbitrator’s compensation.

Publicly Available Information

The AAA’s Consumer Rules contain provisions that make certain information publicly available about consumer arbitrations administered by the AAA. This includes Rules establishing a registry of businesses with AAA consumer arbitration agreements and another that provides for the publication of redacted consumer arbitration awards.

  • Starting September 1, 2014, the AAA implemented a publicly available Consumer Clause Registry. The Registry was created to provide more access to information about the AAA’s consumer arbitration services. In particular, the Registry contains a list of businesses that have submitted their consumer arbitration clauses with the AAA and where, upon review, the AAA has determined that the clause substantially and materially complies with the due process standards of the Consumer Due Process Protocol.
  • The AAA’s publicly available Consumer Clause Registry contains the name of the business, contact information, and the consumer arbitration clause, along with any related documents deemed necessary by the AAA. For more information on the registry, visit
  • The AAA maintains a Consumer Arbitration Statistics report on its website based upon consumer cases filed with the AAA for at least the last five years.
Debt Collection Moratorium

In 2009, the AAA implemented a moratorium on the administration of debt collection arbitration programs. Matters included in this moratorium are consumer debt collection programs or bulk filings and individual case filings in which the company is the filing party and the consumer has not agreed to arbitrate at the time of the dispute, and the case involves a credit card bill, a telecom bill or a consumer finance matter.

Register Now

Please complete the form below to register for the webinar Vacatur and Enforcement of Arbitration Awards:

Registration closes today at 5:00 PM ET

Who Should Attend: Arbitrators, advocates, academics, and anyone interested in the dynamics of arbitration.