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Supreme Court Upholds Arbitration In DirectTV Case 119

An anonymous reader sends word that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 6-3 decision that DirecTV’s service agreement barring mass arbitration by its customers must be enforced. The NYTimes reports: "The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that dissatisfied customers of DirecTV in California could not band together in a class action and must instead pursue individual arbitrations. The decision, by a 6-to-3 vote, was the latest in a series of Supreme Court decisions that have made it harder for consumers to go to court to pursue claims of fraud and defective products."
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Supreme Court Upholds Arbitration In DirectTV Case

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  • by Racemaniac ( 1099281 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @06:37AM (#51120375)

    Sounds like as many users that can afford to sue should do that individually, and i wonder if it wouldn't cause problems for the judges/justice system to have tons of individual case where one big case would have sufficed. If they worked together they may even be able to bring the price down a bit on individual cases as there is a lot of work in common for all the cases.
    would love to see a real life "ddos" XD

    • Because only a fool or a madmen spends thousands of dollars pursuing a claim over fifty.

      • Why does it cost thousands to pursue a claim? Is there something wrong with your justice system?
        • by Bremen24601 ( 235943 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @07:11AM (#51120453)

          It costs so much because lawyers don't work for free.

          Theoretically this is what class action suits are for. Many people who want to pursue small damages.

          • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

            it costs so much because lawyers are greedy assholes. not working for free is one thing, working for obscene amounts of money is another.

            • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @10:59AM (#51121619) Homepage

              it costs so much because lawyers are greedy assholes. not working for free is one thing, working for obscene amounts of money is another.

              While that is a valid topic for another day, the cost of prosecuting the shoplifting of a pack of gum is always going to cost far more than the gum no matter how reasonable the wages are. But if you didn't prosecute it, petty shoplifting would be rampant. Class actions are supposed to serve the same function for civil law, if you violate a lot of contracts for a few dollars each no individual is harmed enough to make a law suit meaningful but the class as a whole does. They know individual arbitration is a waste of our time because of the amounts involved. And they'll use the illegitimate gains from the 99% who won't complain to cover the arbitration cost.

              The alternative that we have here in Norway is usually more in the direction of strong consumer protection laws, competition authorities and such but that would imply a far more regulated market that you probably don't want. And you're usually equally opposed to voluntary organizations standing up to big business like unions. Americans like to be free individuals. That tend to get stomped on by forces much bigger than themselves, then whine about it. Then demand less regulation so they can get even more screwed by even more lopsided agreements, then whine some more. Anything that even resembles collective action is stamped as socialist and evil.

              There will always be power structures, if it's not big government and big business then it'll be gangs of thugs, oligarchs controlling key resources and such. And every power structure will be a mix of good and evil. Democratic institutions are not just about the public good. Capitalist institutions aren't just about fair and honest competition. Media isn't just about fair and unbiased journalism. Special interest groups don't just want their voice heard. Every power structure works for itself, the individuals in it and in collusion with other power structures. It's about keeping the giants caught in a system of checks and balances so the ants aren't stomped on. Getting "your day in court" is part of that.

              • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @11:48AM (#51121989) Journal
                Cases like this is what small claims court was designed for. It costs very little to file, you don't need a lawyer, and because its capped at 5K in most places often the corp will just pay up instead of spending the money to argue the case. Its one of the few places where the legal system actually gives an advantage to the little guy and it sounds like where these cases need to be.
                • Except that a lot of these scumbags not only require you to "waive your right to class-action" but also to "submit to binding arbitration" (usually an arbitrator assigned by the corp).

                • You are forbidden in the customer agreements from using any legal process other than what the corporations allow you to use. Ie, binding arbitration. You can not sue, you can not file a claim, you can not win. If binding arbitration somehow decides in favor of the consumer then these arbitration agreements often have additional fine print that either side may request additional arbitration with costs shared between the two parties.

                  Most of these small claims are not worth the time unless it's class action

                • Small claims court is nice for some things. However, you have to show up at the hearing, which won't be on your schedule, or have a default judgment against you. It's not really suitable for something like $50, although if you have no other commitments you might want to out of curiosity.

          • Theoretically this is what class action suits are for. Many people who want to pursue small damages.

            Or fee-shifting rules, where the looser pays.

            • Is the looser the person who has looser morals?

              loser = opposite of winner
              looser = not tighter

              Please learn the difference, this isn't a hard one, and it makes you look very uneducated.

              • Or it could just be a typo, which makes you look like an arrogant prick!
                • Trying to be helpful and teach people the proper words that are used in certain situations is arrogant now? This board is frequented by many people who don't speak English as a first language, and often make mistakes without realizing it. I feel it is helpful to point out those mistakes as they prevent people from appearing uneducated in the future.

                  If you are going to foe me for me trying to help you with a common mistake, that is your choice, it doesn't bother me one bit.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Arbitration does involve the justice system.
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        sb "Arbitration does NOT involve the justice system."

        Shoulda used preview, even for a short comment. My duh.
    • The answer is for congress to step in and fix this. That will prove challenging since congress itself is broken, making it hard for them to fix anything else.
      • Congress is working exactly as intended. It should be difficult to get things through congress as it increases everyone's personal freedom.

        Also, the current administration has mainly highlighted the need to negotiate with your political rivals, by refusing to negotiate, which has caused most of the recent problems you would point to as broken. Politics is about negotiating, when the President goes on TV to complain how he won't negotiate with the terrorists in congress, what you should translate that to i

        • Not to get too far OT, but if we are apportioning blame (rather than just smacking everyone involved and telling them to play nice for the good of the country), then congress is, at minimum, 50% to blame for the gridlock and lack of meaningful legislative activity.

          That's neither controversial nor pejorative--avowed obstructionism and theater legislation have become points of public pride for many in the House, especially.
    • IIRC at a certain point, cases can be combined. So the effect would be limited to the law clerks doing a lot of reading and phone calls.

      The right thing to do is find something that qualifies for small claims court. Set up a how to wiki, and file cases gradually.

      Small claims is expensive for a big business, and they will probably default on most claims. Bonus, everyone gets more money and DTV loses

      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        "Customers of DirecTV in California could not band together in a class action and must instead pursue individual arbitrations"
    • by Holi ( 250190 )
      Except it's arbitration not civil court.
    • by qeveren ( 318805 )

      What makes you think judges/courts have anything to do with arbitration?

  • So why didn't totally bar arbitration altogether in its service agreement? In small print, "You cannot sue us, anytime, anywhere over anything. Period. No exceptions. Don't even dream of trying to contact a lawyer."

    • by sociocapitalist ( 2471722 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @07:09AM (#51120445)

      So why didn't totally bar arbitration altogether in its service agreement? In small print, "You cannot sue us, anytime, anywhere over anything. Period. No exceptions. Don't even dream of trying to contact a lawyer."

      The company wants arbitration instead of class action suits because arbitration tends to work better for the companies than getting hit by the actual law.

      Users tend to sign away their right to legal protection by agreeing to arbitration in terms of use etc., giving the company the ability to screw over large numbers of people while risking only individual lawsuits and not class action suits that would actually have some effect on the company's bottom line.

      IMHO such use of arbitration should be generally illegal.

    • They wouldn't be able to get away with "You can't sue us for any reason", but demanding arbitration also means that they pick (and pay) the arbitrator. They select someone who is favorable to them and who will rule in their favor as often as possible. No, it doesn't make winning against them impossible, but if winning against them was impossible then forcing arbitration might be ruled illegal. So they take the occasional token loss and still wind up vastly ahead of where they'd be if actual lawsuits were

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

      So why didn't totally bar arbitration altogether in its service agreement? In small print, "You cannot sue us, anytime, anywhere over anything. Period. No exceptions. Don't even dream of trying to contact a lawyer."

      That's easy, because some places you can't waive legally guaranteed rights that are afforded to you by law by contract. It actually makes the entire contract void.

      • And has the supreme court spoken on this? It seems that legal theory does not always match reality.

  • Any legal accountability corporations had just dissipated into the ether. It's no longer a "If class action settlement $X is less than recall cost $Y, then we do Z", now it's "if X% of affected customers go to arbitration, with average settlement $Y, and X*Y recall cost Z, then we don't recall." I'm willing to bet that the proportion of people who would bother to do the effort of arbitration for a low chance of being granted a pittance is far less than the tiny proportion of a class who apply for an already

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It already is a standard component of every "take it or leave it" legal contract, and has been for years. It's been upheld by the Supreme Court before, this is nothing new. AT&T and Sony took it (separately) to the Supreme Court years ago, and won. Buying games on Steam? Yup, that clause is in there, and has been for 4 or 5 years.

      You wouldn't believe how difficult it can be to not do business with any companies that includes these clauses these days.

    • > and a $7 rebate coupon

      Pretty much this is what you are losing out on.

      The 2 or 3 who filed the initial lawsuits that get banded into the class action get some, and the lawyers who created it get a massive amount (winning a lottery amounts) and then others get a snail mail letter saying file a claim and here's a check for $11.

      I got something like that out of the blue because Comerica way overcharged. It is the 3rd or 4th such thing.

  • These clowns have been bought and paid for for quite a while now. Honestly, they are supposed to uphold the constitution not bow to their corporate masters.

    But they are all lawyers, so of course they will act like scumbags.

  • ...why Tivo isn't suing the everliving shit out of DirecTV. Conversely, I would like to know why DirecTV even still claims to actually sell "DirecTivos" anymore. If you try to actually get one you just get a never-ending runaround.

    • As far as patents go, TiVo and ReplayTV introduced DVRs at the same time, so between them they held the fundamental DVR patents. TiVo and ReplayTV had an agreement that they wouldn't sue each other.

      In 2007 DirectTV bought the assets of ReplayTV, presumably to get the patent portfolio, just so that they could offer a TVR without being sued by TiVo.

  • Looks like there's another product/service I won't be purchasing.

  • by KenDiPietro ( 1294220 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @09:12AM (#51120809)
    Individual arbitration? Why waste the time and money? Instead, just stop paying the bastards.

    If enough people are upset, setup a site to coordinate these many thousands of people and issue a warning to DirectTV (or Comcast, whoever) that on a specific date, tens of thousands of users are going to refuse to pay their bill - period. To make this really effective, have an escrow account setup where the money gets deposited to show that this is a protest.

    Truth be told, tens of thousands of people refusing to pay might not be enough to catch DirectTV's attention but get a few hundred thousand people threatening to withhold payment and the accountants are going to look at what that does to the cash flow and scream.

    What I like about this is idea is that it's the perfect method for Americans to protest because they don't actually have to do anything, all they have to do is nothing (as in don't pay their bill). Let's face it, we, as a nation, excel at doing nothing.
  • Corporations can legally enjoy the rights of individuals for legal reasons but groups of people cannot enjoy the same rights in suing a corporation? How about if the group of people being screwed by DirectTV incorporate then sue the pants off of them instead of a class action suit?
  • by AnalogDiehard ( 199128 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @10:42AM (#51121477)
    I had DirecTV for four whopping days before I cancelled it because of phone-bouncing between departments for 90 minutes trying to find out why my internet services were not delivered.

    DirecTV charged me a $135 termination fee. I challenged the fee by demanding a contract with my signature that obligates me to that fee. Their response was the contract was "implied" when they started the service.

    "Implied" contracts - IE non-signed - are inadmissable and not enforceable in a court of law. I didn't seek relief in court for obvious economic reasons. But I am not shy about discouraging everyone I know from accepting services from DirecTV.

    The question that has not been answered in the cases in this article is this: do the parties have a signed contract in the dispute? If not, then DirecTV has no legal mandate to termination fees under contract law and the class action status should had been allowed.

    There is no law that mandates agreement to a legal document in exchange for layman services or sales. Anymore if I am handed a paper that is contains any legalese, I respond that I will not sign it until I review it with my lawyer, and I reserve the right to amend the contract. People do this with real estate leases and contracts all the time. A signed receipt for sales or services is not an agreement to a legal contract.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      "Implied" contracts - IE non-signed - are inadmissable and not enforceable in a court of law. (...) A signed receipt for sales or services is not an agreement to a legal contract.

      I'm sorry, but you are plain wrong. If you go to a hair dresser, describe the hair cut you want and afterwards refuse to pay because you never explicitly agreed to that neither verbally nor in writing the courts will consider it an implied-in-fact [] contract. Same reason the grocery store can't have you arrested for shoplifting, the courts will imply a sales contract even though it's nowhere in writing. If witnesses or the CCTV shows you paid, the reciept isn't even necessary.

      In your case I'm guessing DirecTV

      • by phorm ( 591458 )

        If you read the parents article, the service was *NOT DELIVERED*, so there's no free haircut here. Additionally, it wasn't the cost of the services he's objecting to (that is implied in any purchase of goods), it's the "termination fee" which they indicate was additionally implied.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2015 @11:34AM (#51121879)
    It is NOT the SCOTUS' responsibility to strike down bad but constitutional laws. To do so would be judicial activism. Congress is the culprit - they passed this special interest legislation and they should fix it.
  • Class action was the last thing we had to defend our rights. Right now with Unions dead there isn't really anything else that brings together enough of the American working class to stand up to a large corporation.
  • I want to know what got their panties in such a twist over a TV service that they decided legal action was necessary. My guess is that they should be suing the installers and not the parent company, as the technicians that DirecTV contracts to are some of the least intelligent people I've had the pleasure of working with.
  • The following article describes the legal rise of arbitration eliminating class action suits.

    Washington Monthly, June/July/August 2014
    "Thrown Out of Court: How corporations became people you can't sue." by Lina Khan
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.c... []

    Interestingly, a recent post at Washington Monthly reported that we have "Sharia" law in the U.S., as some companies require that arbitration be through religious mediators. (In the cases mentioned, Christian and Scientology arbitrators.)

    http://www.washing []
  • It comes as no surprise. The US government and the legal system has been controlled by the rich and their corporations for years. Citizens no longer have rights even remotely equal to them. A shift needs to happen that gives rights back to the people.
  • The next president will nominate new SCOTUS judges. See who voted the asshole way? Only judges nominated by republicans. This is the most important issue of the election.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.