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AT&T Wins Supreme Court Arbitration Case
Your Rights to Class Actions Now Eliminated by Mouse Print
by Karl Bode 04:30PM Wednesday Apr 27 2011
For years now, companies like AT&T have tried to bury fine print in user contracts stating that they cannot participate in class action lawsuits, but must instead participate in binding arbitration -- a process overseen by companies hired by AT&T where consumers lose more often than not. Judges time, time, and time again have told ISPs this isn't legal, and an appeals court in California had ruled that eroding user legal options with fine print as "unconscionable." The case was finally heard by The Supreme Court this week, who ruled 5-4 across party lines in AT&T's favor:
The Supreme Court gave corporations a major win Wednesday, ruling in a 5-4 decision that companies can block their disgruntled customers from joining together in a class-action lawsuit. The ruling arose from a California lawsuit involving cellphones, but it will have a nationwide impact. . . in Wednesday's decision, the high court said that under the Federal Arbitration Act companies can force these disgruntled customers to arbitrate their complaints individually, not as part of a group. Consumer-rights advocates said this rule would spell the end for small claims involving products or services.
As the Wall Street Journal law blog notes, the case is a big deal as it could not only result in the death of class actions as an option for consumers, but it also impacts corporate employees and shareholders -- as corporations will now place the legal-right eroding language in virtually all contracts and "transactional relationships." While many justifiably lament the skewed attorney/client payouts associated with class actions, such suits have created substantive consumer benefits, such as carriers being forced to pro-rate ETFs or be more transparent about network management practices.

The full opinion is here (pdf), for those who are interested.

143 comments .. click to read

Recommended comments

Colorado Springs, CO

2 recommendations

reply to batterup

Re: And so it begins....

I doubt AT&T would care about the 5 customers a year that would try to do this.

People need to realize that our rights are being eroded every day. Our country is slowly becoming a corpratist dictatorship. Republicans cant win an election, fine figure out how to disqualify voters, make it nearly impossible to vote etc. Cause new voters who are sick of the status quo probably wont vote republican this round after all the crap they promised has not come to pass.

Congress passing a law beneficial to consumers? Please when did that last happen. Was it in 2008 when credit card companies could now get money from bankrupt customers eliminating that whole concept of "Unsecured Debt", or maybe it was the Bankruptcy reform that made it more difficult to file bankruptcy, and you have to wait longer to do so after a bankruptcy. All of this right before our economy went to $hit. This government helps those who have the most money, and oh wait, yeah in 2010 the supreme court on the same vote line, voted to allow corporations and PAC's to be able to contribute unlimited money to a candidate.

The regular people are limited to 2500 dollars spread across any election even your mayor.

I guess if I want to donate unlimited money I have to go out and get a LLC done.

Wake up people. The Rich are in control and they're doing everything in their power to make sure it stays that way and that they get even more of "Their Share." It's the same group of people who will be able to live in another country after they've sucked us dry.


Santa Monica, CA

2 recommendations

They got it right

Class action suits are a joke - all they do is enrich the bottom-dwelling lawyers, while the customer gets a 15% discount on leather accessories.

If you're ignorant enough to sign with AT&T, too bad.

West Tenness

2 recommendations

reply to silentlooker

Re: And so it begins....

said by silentlooker:

said by Riusaki:

Welcome to the United Corporations of America.

Make sure to have lots of lube.

What is wrong with that? Nothing. I am glad the court ruled the way they did

what's wrong with corporations running American and Americans losing their rights? Please leave the US.

Broadway, NC

2 recommendations

This might be an opportunity

Now that the issue has been settled, there might be an opening for a a disruptive company to come in and compete on the basis of NOT forcing arbitration. I will admit at first blush this might not happen, but it could if enough people are ready to protest against this type of consumer protection erosion.

The rulling said that the companies COULD force arbitration but said nothing about companies all having to USE or FORCE arbitration approaches...

Something to think about at least...
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