ATT to consumers: Arbitration is great when it helps us, horrible when it does not!

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In the fight to protect consumers and restoring access to justice one is rarely surprised by the level of corporate hypocrisy.  Yet, last week’s filing by AT&T managed to do just that. 

This spring, in AT&T vs Concepcion, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to consumers’ ability to access justice.  In ruling that corporations can ban class actions where there is an arbitration clause in the contract, Post Concepcion, companies can potentially isolate themselves from court challenge with an arbitration clause in any contract. 
Follow closely the highly illogical logic.  To obtain this decision, AT&T, in Concepcion, argued that class actions in arbitrations shouldn’t be allowed because there was no meaningful judicial review of what arbitrators do; yet, they lauded individual arbitration as meaningful, efficient and economically beneficial to consumers.  Since consumers now can’t bring class actions in court or in arbitration, the only recourse for a consumer fighting against corporate wrongdoing is to file in arbitration. 
As it turns out though, AT&T only likes arbitration if only a few people actually use it.  Last week, in response to the initiation of multiple arbitrations filed by many individuals, AT&T sought an injunction against any attempts to arbitrate such claims because, purportedly, the relief sought is akin to class-wide injunctive relief which is outside the scope of what the arbitration agreements permit.  Translation: we only like arbitration if it works for us.  Because too many people recently tried to bring individual arbitration filings AT&T is now bringing its customers to court
Perhaps, consumer advocates were right all along.  Pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses are exculpatory; they are not meant to accommodate anyone but the corporation who wrote the clause.   
 
Written by Delicia Reynolds, Legislative Director, National Association of Consumer Advocates