Aug 29 2008 by Karl Bode
Over the past few years a growing number of wireless and broadband ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and T-Mobile come to mind) have been trying to erode your legal rights via fine print. By burying legalese in your contract, carriers attempt to prevent you from participating in class action lawsuits. Instead of allowing you your day in court, the companies require that customers participate in mandatory binding arbitration (an outside the court settlement system where you lose most of the time).
However, these efforts have been having a tough time holding up in court. Carriers faced yet another setback this week when the Washington state Supreme Court upheld an AT&T customer's right to file a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for incorrectly charging him city utility surcharges and "usurious" late fees, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. AT&T had argued he couldn't sue because the AT&T mouse print didn't allow it, but Justice Tom Chambers would have none of it:
AT&T's Consumer Services Agreement is substantively unconscionable and therefore unenforceable to the extent that it purports to waive the right to class actions, require confidentiality, shorten the Washington Consumer Protection Act statute of limitations, and limit availability of attorney fees. . . Courts will not be easily deceived by attempts to unilaterally strip away consumer protections and remedies by efforts to cloak the waiver of important rights under an arbitration clause.