AT&T’s Double Standard: You Can’t Sue Us But We Can Sue You

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Apparently AT&T can make up rules without following them. In an audacious move by the nation’s worst rated and most hated wireless carrier, AT&T recently filed multiple lawsuits against its own customers – just months after the U.S. Supreme Court ok’d AT&T’s policy of requiring ripped-off customers to file “arbitration” complaints and preventing them from going to court.

Now, AT&T itself is going to court to stop more than twenty individual customers from filing arbitration complaints challenging AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. These customers are part of an effort to “fight the merger,” which would allow AT&T to monopolize the cell phone marketplace and raise prices on tens of millions of consumers.

Perhaps AT&T should have been more careful of what it wished for. Earlier this year, in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion 563 U.S. __ (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld AT&T’s arbitration clause, a provision buried in the “contract” between AT&T and its wireless customers. This clause requires mandatory arbitration – customers are outlawed from suing AT&T in a court – and states, “[a]ny arbitration under this Agreement will take place on an individual basis; class arbitrations and class actions are not permitted.”

So, Concepcion leaves aggrieved AT&T customers with just one option: individual arbitration. That is what these twenty (soon to be 1,000+) customers have requested, and now AT&T is suing them for following the unfair, one-sided rules that AT&T created in the first place!

If justice prevails, then judges and arbitrators will give AT&T a glimpse of what customers deal with when they are deprived of contractual and statutory rights, forced to incur massive costs, and shoulder the burden of legal proceedings to gain recourse – because AT&T did all of the above to consumers in 2004 after merging with Cingular.

We sued AT&T for that debacle in 2006 on behalf of thousands of AT&T customers who were saddled with inoperative cell phones, upgrade fees, and more expensive rate plans after the feds approved that merger. AT&T is trying to force those customers into arbitration even as it goes to court to stop arbitration of complaints against the latest merger.

A few weeks ago, we urged the US government to block the latest merger, pointing out AT&T’s misconduct after the last one. Looks like the feds got the message: the Department of Justice is suing to stop the merger.

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