Facing increasing scrutiny by regulators, some credit card issuers appear to be softening their mandatory arbitration rules, which generally block angry customers from banding together to file class action lawsuits against the companies.

"The advice we're giving to clients is to make arbitration consumer-friendly," said Alan S. Kaplinsky, a Ballard Spahr partner and an architect of arbitration clauses. "You want to make sure the agreements get enforced in court."

Mr. Kaplinsky said that even though the new arbitration language keeps its ban on class actions, that doesn't mean banks can keep gotcha practices quiet by keeping angry consumers out of court.

"It's very easy for people to find out if a bank or a credit card issuer is not treating a customer right," he said, including regulators and state attorneys general. In an Internet-enabled world, "it's very easy for the word to get out."

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Consumer Financial Services