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Starbucks Gift Cards Terms Of Service Get Scrutiny From Consumer Advocacy Groups

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A Starbucks gift card seems like a solid, if not exactly personal, present for a caffeine-loving person in your life. But a major complaint from several consumer advocacy groups make make you want to think twice before you plunk down the cash to buy your loved one a couple weeks worth of Frappuccinos.

According to the complaint, the terms of service on Starbucks gift cards make customers settle any legal claims that may arise when using the cards in a private arbitration process rather than a court of law. The complainants argue that such a process "would deny customers their access to justice should they seek to pursue legal claims against the company." The complaint asks Starbucks to amend the terms of use on the gift card to allow full access to courts before the holidays.

ABC News notes that one important facet of the complaint is that the arbitration system prevents customers from banding together to launch class-action suits against Starbucks, in the event that multiple customers experience the same problem.

Christine Hines at Opposing Views writes that arbitration clauses like this are becoming more common in many terms of use contracts. But for comparison's sake, it's worth pointing out that anotherr major gift card sellers, Amazon explicitly allow customers to appeal to courts in the event of a complaint. In-N-Out Burger, though, has a long arbitration clause much like Starbuck's.

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