Court Tells Cingular It Can't Deny Lawyers Chance To Make Money

from the how-dare-you dept

The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that a class-action lawsuit against mobile operator Cingular (now called AT&T) can proceed, despite a clause in the contracts it has subscribers sign preventing them from starting such actions. The suit in question alleges that Cingular overcharged some customers in the state for some roaming and long-distance calls, with a lawyer for the customers saying they were overcharged by $1 to $40 per month. Will this help the customers recover the charges and receive compensation in line with the overcharging? That seems unlikely, since all that's really happened is the court's given lawyers a green light to pursue a paycheck.

Filed Under: class action, overcharge
Companies: cingular

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  1. identicon
    dicus, 14 Jul 2007 @ 7:30am


    That would be nice. However, contracts like this generally include a an arbitration clause that does not allow you to sue them. You have to take your case to arbitration.

    I was just included in a Belkin class action for a wireless router they overstated the throughput on. What do you think the damages were? A coupon? Nope, money back for the router. Class actions are a valuable tool when big business ripes off customers and someone catches them. This is especially true when you are forced to arbitrate your dispute. You may end up paying more in arbitration costs than the damages you get from the arbitrator. This also means you cannot go into small claims court, unless you want to try and fight the clause up to the supreme court, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Class actions make this feasible, because otherwise no one would be able to challenge such clauses.

    The lawyers on cases like this are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars taking the case up through the appeals courts. So the customers in this case may only get a coupon, but this is important for everyone. At least in Washington state, there is now precedent for class action clauses to be invalid. That is very important. It's these types of cases that further consumer protection and advance consumer interest. Frankly, we need more of these challenges, as companies have been stretching the boundaries of contract drafting for awhile now.

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