AT&T Supreme Court Case Could Cripple Your Legal Rights
AT&T takes their fine print to the top court...
by Karl Bode 07:57AM Friday Nov 05 2010 Tipped by ericn32
For years Judges have been telling ISPs (both wireless and terrestrial) that they can't ban a customer from joining a class action lawsuit by using fine print in user contracts. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast have all tried (and failed, in the eyes of the law) to instead force users to accept binding arbitration, a system of complaint resolution companies prefer because the firms they hire to do this service rule in the corporations' favor 95% of the time or more. Now AT&T's taking the issue to the Supreme Court:
quote:If a majority of the nine justices vote the telecom giant's way, any business that issues a contract to customers -- such as for credit cards, cellphones or cable TV -- would be able to prevent them from joining class-action lawsuits. This would take away in such cases arguably the most powerful legal tool available to the little guy, particularly in cases involving relatively small amounts of money. Class-action suits allow plaintiffs to band together in seeking compensation or redress, thus giving substantially more heft to their claims.
It seems likely this particularly collection of Supreme Court Judges will rule in AT&T's favor, something that will please those who narrowly view class actions as solely a way to line attorney pockets. But while lawyers usually do make out like bandits, that shouldn't justify cheering for your own legal rights erosion.
Class actions serve as one of the only real deterrents we have for poor corporate behavior (they recently resulted in pro-rated ETFs, and stopped carriers from covertly extending user contracts every time users made tiny plan changes) -- especially in sectors with spineless regulators.