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Supreme Court: AT&T Can Force Arbitration 415

Posted by timothy
from the anywhere-it-wants-to dept.
suraj.sun writes with this unhappy news, as reported by Ars Technica: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that AT&T — and indeed, any company — could block class-action suits arising from disputes with customers and instead force those customers into binding arbitration. The ruling reverses previous lower-court decisions that classified stipulations in AT&T's service contract which barred class arbitration as 'unconscionable.' ... In cases where an unfair practice affects large numbers of customers, AT&T or other companies could quietly settle a few individual claims instead of being faced with larger class-action settlements which might include punitive awards designed to discourage future bad practices."
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Supreme Court: AT&T Can Force Arbitration

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  • by alen (225700) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @04:29PM (#35968262)

    SCOTUS didn't say you have to submit to arbitration in all cases, just in dumb suits like this one.

    most states have a law where you pay the sales tax on the full pre-coupon price. AT&T had a special on a phone where they gave it away for "free". idiot couple paid the tax. instead of giving back the phone they sued. this should have been kicked back to small claims court not a class action lawsuit that will cost millions of $$$ to fight

  • Re:In Canada... (Score:4, Informative)

    by debrain (29228) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @04:41PM (#35968450) Journal

    Several provinces also have legislation protecting the right to pursue remedy by Courts (effectively allowing class proceedings).

    This sort of legislation arose in response to arbitration clauses such as the one in AT&T, and in particular one in an agreement with Dell Computer (see Dell Computer Corp. v. Union des consommateurs, 2007 SCC 34, [2007] 2 S.C.R. 801 [canlii.org]), that prevented class proceedings. See e.g. paragraph 64 of Griffin v. Dell Canada Inc., 2010 ONCA 29 (CanLII) [canlii.org].

    An example of the legislation in question is in section 7 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 [gov.on.ca] in Ontario.

  • Now imagine that... (Score:5, Informative)

    by GodInHell (258915) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @04:41PM (#35968452) Homepage
    McDonalds requires every employee to sign away class action rights -- boom, they can nick a buck off each employee every day and it will never be worth an individual suit. They can just fire you as the total from you approaches the cost of filing your claim.

    Add in Walmart and all the other chain stores and shady dealers. This ruling was NOT limited to consumer cases.

    -GiH

    (Yes, IAAL)
  • Re:Lawyers (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Thursday April 28, 2011 @04:47PM (#35968538) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that the contract prohibits private lawsuits. So, if AT&T "forces" you to go the individual route, they are then entitled to have the case thrown out as a contract violation. The supreme court only ruled that AT&T could force individual arbitration, it said nothing about AT&T then having to allow said arbitration to proceed.

  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @04:48PM (#35968574)

    I have trouble understanding how a black man can support the Party that opposed the abolition of slavery and created the Ku Klux Klan.

    You might want to crack open a history book sometime. Lincoln was a Republican. The Republican party was founded as an abolitionist party. At the founding of the KKK the south was nigh universally Democratic (because the Republicans had abolished slavery).

    Sure, the Republican party has radically changed in the last seventy years so that it's senseless to say it's the party of Lincoln or the party of Teddy Roosevelt, but that doesn't change the fact that you have no clue what you're talking about.

  • Re:Oohh.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mousit (646085) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @07:13PM (#35970172)
    Sigh, replying to an AC, but...

    It is the land of laws indeed, except the court in this case ruled against those laws, not in favor or "according" to them. Had you actually RTFA'd, you'd have seen that California has consumer protection laws that ban this sort of practice. All the lower court rulings upheld California's state laws. AT&T continued to push it higher and higher to get their favored ruling. The Supreme Court most certainly did have plenty of latitude in the law's interpretation, as their ruling was that the Federal Arbitration Act takes precedence over California's own state laws.

    Yes, this is yet another ruling that very explicitly overrides the sovereignty of states' rights in favor of federal. In fact, quoted right there in TFA, is Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion that, quote "[R]ecognition of that federalist ideal, embodied in specific language in this particular statute, should lead us to uphold California's law, not to strike it down."

    But the erosion of states' rights and sovereignty is certainly nothing new, particularly to California itself. The application of federal interstate trafficking laws to medicinal marijuana grown and sold entirely within the state of California was another huge example of the Supreme Court's willingness to trample state sovereignty.
  • Re:Lawyers (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @07:59PM (#35970490) Journal
    what it means is that AT&T will suffer little to no consequences for it's fraud.
  • by jeko (179919) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @08:47PM (#35970738)

    You're thinking of the way things use to be. Arbiters are currently chosen by the corporation. You have no say in who hears your case. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the arbitration firms find in favor of the corporation against the consumer 98.4% of the time [csmonitor.com] and the remaining 1.6% offer consumers laughably small compensation that does not even come close to making them whole.

    Let me put it bluntly to be clear. No consumer has ever won in arbitration. Under the current regime, none of them ever will.

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