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On March 19, 2014, the California Court of Appeal will hold a hearing on DIRECTV’s attempt to force its customers who were wrongly charged early cancellation penalties to bring claims individually before private arbitrators rather than proceed in court as a class action. The class action lawsuit, brought by Consumer Watchdog’s attorneys on behalf of DIRECTV customers, claims that DIRECTV’s early cancellation penalties are unlawful and were often taken out of consumers’ checking accounts without their permission.

DIRECTV is appealing a 2012 trial court ruling that rejected DIRECTV’s attempt to force consumers in the class action into arbitration. DIRECTV argued that a “class action waiver” in its customer contract requires its customers to pursue claims against DIRECTV individually only through arbitration. The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the company’s contract impermissibly restricted consumers’ rights under California law to stop DIRECTV’s unlawful cancellation penalties. 

Attorneys for consumers in the case say the trial court’s ruling is correct, and that DIRECTV’s arbitration provision is unconscionable. In a brief submitted to the Court of Appeal, attorneys for the class of consumers describe how DIRECTV also waived any right to pursue arbitration when its attorneys stated in open court that the company would not do so and then proceeded to litigate the case for over two years:

 

DIRECTV litigated this action for more than two and a half years before moving to compel arbitration. During this time, DIRECTV took both of the plaintiffs’ depositions, participated in substantial class-related written discovery, and filed various law and motion matters, while the plaintiffs incurred an enormous amount of legal fees and costs. At one point, defense counsel literally guaranteed the trial court judge that DIRECTV would not move to compel arbitration.

 

Read Consumer Watchdog’s brief filed with the Court of Appeal here.

DIRECTV’s request to compel arbitration came after DIRECTV repeatedly assured the trial court and the plaintiffs’ attorneys that it would not move to compel arbitration. DIRECTV changed its position after the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011), which upheld an arbitration provision with a class action waiver in a cell phone company’s customer contract.

Consumer Watchdog attorneys will urge the Court of Appeal to uphold the trial court’s ruling denying DIRECTV’s attempt to force arbitration at the March 19 hearing.

For more information about the DIRECTV case, visit its casepage.