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Chris Nace
Chris Nace
Attorney • (202) 930-0292

Will Supreme Court Limit Consumer Protection Laws by Giving a Break to AT&T?

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Interesting blog post on the Public Justice website today about a case about to be heard by the Supreme Court. According to Public Justice,

AT&T Mobility (“ATTM”) wants the U.S. Supreme Court to invent a new federal law for it. ATTM has language in its standard form contracts that generally requires its customers to take any legal disputes they have to arbitration and—more importantly in many cases—prohibits them from ever bringing or being part of a class action lawsuit.

Hmm, now I wonder what AT&T is pushing for. Could be another way to protect the bottom line at the expense of hard-working, honest, paying customers?

Many courts around the U.S. have struck down ATTM’s “class action ban” under a basic rule of contract law that corporations can’t stick terms into their standard form contracts that strip consumers or employees of their rights under consumer and civil rights statutes. But ATTM now is arguing to the Supreme Court that a statute that says that courts should generally enforce arbitration agreements “preempts” (wipes away, overrides) the state laws that dozens of courts have used to strike down class action bans. While the wireless phone giant doesn’t openly admit it, it isn’t difficult to read between the lines that what it wants amounts to this: Imagine ATTM cheats 100,000 customers out of some small sum, say $50 apiece. Imagine too that only 100 of those customers will (a) figure out that they’d been cheated; (b) know what their legal rights are under state consumer protection laws; (c) get angry enough to go out and spend some time trying to get their money back; and (d) if the case is at all complex, find a lawyer to handle the case.

Simply put, AT&T wants a pass on state consumer protection laws. Shocking that a corporation in this day and age wants a pass when it cheats the general public.

Check out the blog for a great history on the importance of state consumer protection laws and keep your eyes open for the result in the Conception case.