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AT&T Makes Its Terms of Service Even Worse, To Discourage Lawsuits

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the even-more-fine-print-to-read dept.

The Courts 412

techmuse writes "AT&T has changed its terms of service (including for existing contracts) to prevent class action suits. Note that you are already required to submit your case to arbitration, a forum in which consumers are often at a substantial disadvantage. Now you must go up against AT&T alone." This post on David Farber's mailing list provides a bit of context as well.

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Great (5, Insightful)

imamac (1083405) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005647)

Now I can cancel my contract with no fee...

Re:Great (0)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005895)

Forgive me for being ignorant, but what do you mean? You get to cancel your contract with no fee if you disagree with the new terms?

Re:Great (5, Informative)

Drantin (569921) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005915)

If they change the contract after the fact, it may no longer be binding...

Re:Great (5, Insightful)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005979)

As a consumer you might have right above and beyond whatever is in the contract. They cannot put a clause, for example, that goes against any laws. You cannot make you sign away those rights, at least where I live.

Re:Great (2, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005991)

Most cable/wireless/anylargecorporation "user agreements" state that the provider can change the terms at whim. In this case the whim is an addition ocular penetration clause that allows them to skull fuck you and charge for the privilege. Such is the blessing of unfettered capitalism.

Re:Great (0, Flamebait)

Sylos (1073710) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006025)

If it were unfettered capitalism, AT&T would have collapsed because the market wouldn't have allowed their shenanigans in the first place.

Re:Great (3, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006355)

Ah yes, the good old "free markets are great because free markets are great" argument!

Re:Great (5, Informative)

nosferatu1001 (264446) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006057)

Except that, in the UK at least, the Unfair Contract Terms Act requires that you give an option to end the contract if the terms are changed and you do not agree to them. Unilateral changes to contracts voids the contract, as you have lost the meeting of minds.

Re:Great (4, Informative)

deathy_epl+ccs (896747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006075)

Yeah, but the clauses that say they can change the terms on their whim have repeatedly failed to stand up in court because they are against the law. Those are there for people who don't know better and won't get a lawyer involved if they think they are screwed already.

Re:Great (-1, Flamebait)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006143)

clause that allows them to skull fuck you and charge for the privilege. Such is the blessing of unfettered capitalism.

After the governmental "scull-fucking" of the tobacco companies, I'm, actually, rooting for the "corporations" and remain surprised, the Atlas has not really shrugged just yet... But such is the curse of Fascist "capitalism", where the government tells businesses and people, what they can do... Yes, people too — what consenting adults are doing in the privacy of their home, is no one's business. Unless they decide to renovate the home, in which case, the Fire, the Zoning, and the Building Inspectors have to approve and the Tax Assessor becomes very interested too...

Sorry, I prefer the "unfettered capitalism" of the past — at least, it was efficient and the same rules, however difficult, applied to everyone.

Re:Great (5, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006257)

Sorry, I prefer the "unfettered capitalism" of the past -- at least, it was efficient and the same rules, however difficult, applied to everyone.

Unfettered capitalism inevitably leads to wealth concentration, and wealth concentration inevitably distorts the political system into favoring those with wealth. Even if you start out with the same rules applying to everyone, after a few decades, that's assuredly not the case anymore. Consider the big trusts of the 19th century, or the original AT&T [wikipedia.org] , or the Teapot Dome scandal [wikipedia.org] , or the more recent Department of the Interior Scandal [nytimes.com] , or own present-day financial system as described by Simon Johnson [theatlantic.com] .

People like you, against all rational self-interest, argue in favor of those who currently hold the reins of power. People like you comprise the lunatic fringe that's historically impeded any attempt at breaking entrenched powers and enriching the life of the common person. In short, fuck you and the libertarian horse you ride in on.

Re:Great (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006201)

However, they can't. That's an example of a company arbitrarily asserting they have a right that they don't, legally, have. If they change the terms, you have valid cause to cancel the contract with no penalty. It doesn't matter what the contract says, you can't give up a right that legally they can't demand you give up. Call them; they'll let you do it, after a bout of transfers intended to make you give up.

Re:Great (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006293)

This is true- but under U.S. common law, a modification to a contract for services requires consideration (i.e., a new benefit to the non-modifying party or a new detriment to the modifying party). Some requirements of contract law may not be waived by the terms of the contract. What the original poster is talking about is a "materially adverse change" to a contract. While PHONECOMPANY may reserve its right to modify the contract, it cannot force you to accept the new contract terms. Where the changes to the terms are "materially adverse" (price/substantive rights are material) you typically have a right to withdraw from the contract with none of the penalties ("liquidated damages") that were part of the original contract. Those liquidated damages (cancelation fees) represent the value that they lose when you violate the terms of the contract, and must be reasonable.

Note that in some states, Mediation (non-binding) may be required by law. Arbitration may not be waivable. In almost all states, you cannot be forced to waive substantive legal rights (such as the right to sue for breach of contract in a court of law). Additionally, you may be protected by consumer rights acts (deceptive trade practice acts) which are a whole other story. Under deceptive trade practice acts, you are typically able to sue for damages when false statements were made which induced you to enter into the contract. So if the PHONECOMPANY salesman says "we will never change these terms," then the terms change, you may be entitled to relief (this is just a simple example at hand).

Capitalism is not unfettered, you have substantive rights under common contract law. But "poor service" is generally not a material breach of a contract, which means you are not entitled to relief or to back out of the contract. Not giving you a new, cheap phone when you lose your phone, is typically not a breach of contract at all etc.

Re:Great (5, Informative)

Tawnos (1030370) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005967)

The term to be familiar with is "materially adverse change in the contract."

phirst post! (0, Redundant)

nonewmsgs (1249950) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005655)

can you really expressly forbid class action suits in such a way that the law respects it?

Re: phirst post! (4, Informative)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005677)

Sure you can. Just write that into a binding contract that both parties agree to.

Really? (3, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005693)

What further evidence do we need that "sanctity of contract" should not be the most important principle in a legal system?

Re: phirst post! (5, Insightful)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005703)

Contracts are weaker than the law. If your contract has terms that are forbidden by law, those terms are void (and possibly the entire contract, and you might be liable for punitive damages).

Of course, I have no idea if US law has such provisions against attempts to forbid class actions.

Re: phirst post! (1)

arbiter1 (1204146) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005835)

i agree, do they have the legal right to prevent class-action lawsuits. i don't think they do.

Re: phirst post! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29005893)

From what I understand they don't have the right to limit all complaints to arbitration, but the contract is there to make people THINK they have given up the the right to sue.

This clause is likely no different.

Re: phirst post! (1)

pcolaman (1208838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006009)

Exactly. They can put in the contract that you have to kiss a moose on the buttcheeks if you are late on your payment, but terms of a contract holding up in court are a different animal. Likely this is more to discourage people who don't know any better from filing a class action suit, but it won't prevent them.

Re: phirst post! (4, Insightful)

jeepien (848819) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006291)

Likely this is more to discourage people who don't know any better from filing a class action suit, but it won't prevent them.

In fact, since this change affects every AT&T customer, this just may be a perfect cause FOR a class action suit.

Re: phirst post! (4, Informative)

GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006171)

State law in Montana forbids waiving your right to a lawsuit and forcing you in to arbitration. I only know this because I was assisting my mom, a lawyer, with finding a phone at Verizon to take to Europe and when they had her sign their agreement she pointedly told the person behind the counter, "You know this isn't legal in Montana!" I assume other states have similar provisions on the books.

Re: phirst post! (3, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005747)

That works fine in non-monopolistic markets. When AT&T is your only choice for DSL, however...

Monopoly on DSL != monopoly on Internet access (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006097)

When AT&T is your only choice for DSL, however...

...then you switch to cable.

Re:Monopoly on DSL != monopoly on Internet access (4, Insightful)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006245)

Yes, It's like going to prison and having the choice of being raped ever night by either Bubba OR Mo, you have 2 great choices for your raping preference, you should feel blessed to live in a country that will allow you the freedom to choose who will violate your asshole.

"Pray I do not alter it any further ..." (2, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005865)

<quote> (including for existing contracts) </quote> from the summary

I love how they change the contract after you have agreed to it.

Re:"Pray I do not alter it any further ..." (1)

psycho12345 (1134609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006081)

More like, "By paying your bill (even automatically), you hereby agree to any changes since the last billing cycle". Of course its a catch-22, agree and get screwed or don't pay and get your credit ruined.

Re:"Pray I do not alter it any further ..." (2, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006119)

That's easy. You call them and say "I never agreed to these terms. Tear up my contract." After you're discharged from the contract you pay your bill.

Re:"Pray I do not alter it any further ..." (2, Informative)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006125)

No, just cancel. It's not a catch 22, there's a very simple out for you. They can't even charge you an ETF if they change the contract midway through its term.

Re:"Pray I do not alter it any further ..." (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006173)

I love how they change the contract after you have agreed to it.

I think a lot of these anti-consumer contracts have language that says that they can change the terms of the contract. It's strange, like self-modifying code.

I use a cheap, no-contract (no more than month to month) cell phone company (http://www.virginmobile.com/ [virginmobile.com] ). Sure it comes with a bit of a lame phone (target market is teenagers), but I can dump them today if I want to. I'm amazed at some of my friends who wonder why I don't get a nicer phone "for free" and sign up with one of major carriers. They complain about their crappy broken phone they can't replace (because they're under contract) or the phone bills that have hundred dollar calls from foreign countries that the company won't dismiss and threaten to send collections...

When my $20 phone finally craps out (had it for over a year now.. no problems), I think I'll try these guys: http://www.straighttalk.com/ServicePlans [straighttalk.com] , relatively cheap decent phones and $45/month unlimited everything. Either that or maybe cricket (http://www.mycricket.com/ [mycricket.com] ).

I had Verizon once, and they were okay. I suppose if they come out with a decent phone and a $45/month for everything plan (with no contract), I'll think about going back.

One of the nice things about Virgin Mobile is that if something happens to your phone, you can be back up and running in about as much time as it takes you to buy a phone at the store. I was having a party at my house and an hour before people started showing up, I stepped on my phone and broke it. I quickly ran to a local store and had phone service in about 20 minutes; only missed 3 calls asking for directions. I now keep a spare cheapie in case something like that happens again or if an out-of-country guest needs a phone while they're visiting. I just put $20 on it for them and they're good for a while without worrying about international rates.

Re: phirst post! (2, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005963)

Sure you can. Just write that into a binding contract that both parties agree to.

Um, that's kinda the point nonewmsgs was making. Can you make such a contract that is actually binding? Just because a contract has been understood and agreed to by all parties does not make it binding.

Re: phirst post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006037)

According to the Fine Article, you're incorrect: "By way of example, federal courts in Washington state and California have ruled that the class action bans in AT&T's cell phone contracts couldn't be enforced, because they violated Washington and California state law." It varies by state.

Re: phirst post! (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006341)

can you really expressly forbid class action suits in such a way that the law respects it?

IANAL, but I would say "Probably not", given that AT&T has tried similar clauses before and had them struck down as "unconscionable".

Sounds like a great opportunity (4, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005665)

... for a class-action lawsuit over their attempt at preventing class-action lawsuits.

Re:Sounds like a great opportunity (2, Funny)

greatica (1586137) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006343)

I'll patent this idea first and then all your class action lawsuit moneys are belong to me!

Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (5, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005669)

Only in a thoroughly corrupt society can big corporations get away with saying "you can't sue me because I don't agree to be sued", while other big corporations win judgments against common people for thousands of times the actual damages. I thought only sovereign nations were supposed to be able to just decline a lawsuit.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005771)

This will not hold water in the courts. Don't panic.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (4, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005829)

This will not hold water in the courts. Don't panic.

Probably not. The problem is that it raises the bar, and makes it that much harder to actually get to court. I presume that's the whole idea.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (2, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006203)

Stuff like this won't make it any harder to bring suit. In many jurisdictions, the law has specific prohibitions against the validity of this kind of blanket clause in contracts.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006237)

Probably not. The problem is that it raises the bar, and makes it that much harder to actually get to court. I presume that's the whole idea.

When AT&T said more bars, that's not quite what I had in mind.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29005805)

Only in a thoroughly corrupt society can big corporations get away with saying "you can't sue me because I don't agree to be sued", while other big corporations win judgments against common people for thousands of times the actual damages. I thought only sovereign nations were supposed to be able to just decline a lawsuit.

It's called "Corporate Government".

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005815)

Only in a thoroughly corrupt society can big corporations get away with saying "you can't sue me because I don't agree to be sued", while other big corporations win judgments against common people for thousands of times the actual damages. I thought only sovereign nations were supposed to be able to just decline a lawsuit.

It's called "Corporate Government".

Mussolini defined it as "corporatism."

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (1)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005825)

And things turned out well for Mussolini. Just sayin'. Too soon?

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006129)

Racial discrimiation is wrong? Yeah cause things turned out well for Martin Luther King Jr.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (0, Troll)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005861)

It shouldn't matter to you if it's a big corporation or a common people either when winning or losing. By underscoring it's a BIG corporation winning against COMMON people you only reveal yourself to be prejudiced.

The only thing important is whether the trial was fair and the sentence legal.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005927)

It shouldn't matter to you if it's a big corporation or a common people either when winning or losing.

Not being a corporation, the distinction matters to me quite a bit. Are you a corporation?

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (5, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005955)

Only in a thoroughly corrupt society can big corporations get away with saying "you can't sue me because I don't agree to be sued",

You can (or can't) sue a company based on your State's laws.
Just because AT&T puts it in the contract doesn't make it enforceable.
If your State allows a ToS to ban class actions, change your laws.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (5, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006015)

My point is that there is something terribly wrong when laws allow companies to decline liability via a standard form contract. The practice obviously favors large corporate interests over ordinary people. When companies large enough to have legal departments start to be dominant force shaping policy, we know we're the sick man of the world.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006141)

When companies large enough to have legal departments start to be dominant force shaping policy

As opposed to the common man? How do you expect him to afford sitting around all day studying law and filing motions?

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (3, Informative)

Orion Blastar (457579) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006253)

Welcome to the age of the EULA and TOS agreements that limit our freedoms and rights as a consumer.

Ordinarily if they violated the US Constitution they would have been thrown out by our founding fathers. But the USA is no longer a Democracy or Republic but a Corportism where Corporations rule and use lobbyists and lawyers to get away with whatever they want so they can earn more profits.

There exists even Employment Contract Agreements that are basically slavery, and companies can easily get away with them and treat employees as slaves. If the employee refuses to be treated as a slave, there are "No Fault" employment laws that says they can be fired for no reason, and then they are blackballed by other corporations so nobody will want to hire that "troublemaker" and then they become homeless or died from lack of food and health care.

Re:Only in a thoroughly corrupt society (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006269)

consumer

I hate this word. The word just reeks of passivism, acceptance, and defeat. With apologies to George Orwell, all a consumer does is choose which color of corporate boot is stamping on his face forever.

I prefer the word "citizen".

We don't have to care. (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005717)

We're the phone company.

Next step (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005729)

you will have to agree to pay their legal fees if you sue them... and pay for any dammages that may be awarded too :)

Re:Next step (2, Funny)

ktandaeo (116154) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005765)

That would make them a homeowners association.

Aren't they required to honour the original? (5, Interesting)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005735)

Aren't they, as cosigners, required to honour the original contract?

Someone else wrote "great, now I can get out of my contract for free", but are you really required to rip up the contract you already have? That they won't renew the existing contract is fine, but ... telling you to rip the one you have up?

I'm fairly certain you couldn't do it the other way around.

"AT&T? Hi, I'm just calling you to tell you, that I've faxed over the new terms of our contract, stipulating that I get to spank your CEO in public every Saturday afternoon. You can either sign it or release me from my contract. Yours truly $name."

Somehow I think that'd just be ignored by AT&T and the courts alike.

Re:Aren't they required to honour the original? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006149)

I think it depends on what they change. When T-Mobile (or was it Sprint?) decided to raise text messaging fees, consumers
had 60 days to opt out of the contract, I'm not sure if this is a material enough change for that to happen. Also the other alternative
is AT&T will honor the current agreement but you have to agree to the new terms when it comes time to renew the contract.

Re:Aren't they required to honour the original? (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006153)

Obviously the issue is that the original contract had a clause like "AT&T can change this contract at any time. Sign below if you agree to be bound by any changes we make." It's not symmetrical because the contract isn't symmetrical.

Re:Aren't they required to honour the original? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006321)

I scribbled in changes in the margin and signed them.

It went through.

EULAs (3, Interesting)

stagg (1606187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005743)

This is very reminiscent of lengthy, legally binding EULAs on software and webpages that the average consumer doesn't read or understand.

Re:EULAs (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006061)

EULA's aren't legally binding. They aren't even valid. Once you buy the software from the store, you are given the right to do nearly anything with it, including open up the shrinkwrap. You don't need to ask the shrink wrap for permission to open it. Even if it says, "by opening this package, you agree to...", you don't actually have to agree to that to open it. You already have the right to open it.

As for clickwrap licenses, those are invalid, because, in acquiring the software, you acquired the right to click on any button in the software. In return for clicking on the "accept" button, you don't owe the software manufacturer anything other than the money you already paid for the software. You certainly don't owe them your acceptance of the EULA.

Furthermore, You can always hack the installer to show a different EULA, such as, "This program is in the public domain.". You haven't agreed not to reverse engineer it yet, so you still have that right. And, in exercising it, you can avoid ever losing it.

For internet forms, I'm not sure if you can click on the "By clicking here, I agree to the TOS" checkbox without legally being bound to it. However, if it only says by clicking there, then you can use tab and spacebar (or javascript) to manipulate the controls to check the box without clicking it.

Re:EULAs (1)

DJ Particle (1442247) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006255)

This. EULAs define the level at which you can still receive support. Go outside the EULA and all it means is that you will no longer get support anymore. It doesn't mean it's actually illegal.

Re:EULAs (1)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006219)

It is pretty much exactly the same. Except for a utility company, you actually do sign the contract. "We" pretend to agree to the terms, and "they" pretend that the terms are enforceable. It is sort of a dance in civilized societies. It has little to no actual legal bearing.

Hey guys... (3, Interesting)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005781)

...I know nobody ever reads TFA, but there doesn't actually seem to be one here. Just a link to the company's website, and two articles to provide context to the non-existent article.

Re:Hey guys... (5, Informative)

stagg (1606187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005841)

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, either party may bring an individual action in small claims court. YOU AGREE THAT, BY ENTERING INTO THIS AGREEMENT, YOU AND AT&T ARE EACH WAIVING THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY AND TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION WITH RESPECT TO ARBITRATION CLAIMS. This Agreement evidences a transaction in interstate commerce, and thus the Federal Arbitration Act governs the interpretation and enforcement of this provision. This arbitration provision shall survive termination of this Agreement." I assume this is the part being referenced.

Re:Hey guys... (1)

nanospook (521118) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006261)

You will never catch me Not Standing during foreplay!

Re:Hey guys... (3, Interesting)

fatalwall (873645) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006069)

Also if you go on the site there is no date stamp telling you when the contract was last updated. The date stamp leaves me rather displeased with ATT though as i should not have to guess when it was last updated

How can requiring arbitration... (2, Interesting)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005789)

...take away consumers right to class action lawsuits? I thought requiring arbitration was one of those things like signing a waiver from liability, it gives the illusion of some legal protection, but it's not always the case? IANAL Please advise/inform if you know.

Re:How can requiring arbitration... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006371)

...take away consumers right to class action lawsuits? I thought requiring arbitration was one of those things like signing a waiver from liability, it gives the illusion of some legal protection, but it's not always the case? IANAL Please advise/inform if you know.

As we all know, legal action can be expensive and slow. There is something to be said for sorting out your legal disagreements by an alternative method that is simple, quick & cheap. Often mediation & arbitration work well.

BUT, in the event of a serious disagreement, not having recourse to the courts (and the power of subpoena & depositions) severely limits your ability to obtain justice.

Wow, this is serious (3, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005811)

I find this repulsive because AT&T services are something that should be considered a life necessity. Since AT&T is the only business that provides these services, consumers have no choice where to get this required need to sustain their lives.

What we really need is another option than AT&T, so that when we are given the contract to sign, we can just say "no" and go to a competitor with a less stringent contract.

That will be the day, friends, when the first competitor to AT&T arrives and gives us an option.

Oh, wait...

Re:Wow, this is serious (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005879)

I find this repulsive because AT&T services are something that should be considered a life necessity. Since AT&T is the only business that provides these services, consumers have no choice where to get this required need to sustain their lives.

What we really need is another option than AT&T, so that when we are given the contract to sign, we can just say "no" and go to a competitor with a less stringent contract.

That will be the day, friends, when the first competitor to AT&T arrives and gives us an option.

Oh, wait...

Choosing phone companies gives about as much choice as choosing a politician. In the end you get the same corrupt non functioning product no matter what you choose.

Re:Wow, this is serious (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29005957)

But there are differences here. For example, as loathsome as you may find them, Verizon Wireless actually specifically allows VOIP over their 3G service.

Re:Wow, this is serious (1)

hamburgler007 (1420537) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006235)

Cell phone service is a life necessity for some people. And when all the cell phone providers enforce the same kind of rules, companies that can afford an extended lawsuit that they might very well win because of the court's (and governments) bias in favor of big businesses, it is serious.

Re:Wow, this is serious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006259)

Oh, you mean the same "competition" that colluded with other cell service providers to raise text prices. Hooray "competition"! Surely it will save us from the new industry best practice.

there's a reasonable chance this is not enforcable (2, Interesting)

hedrick (701605) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005875)

A number of cases like this have gone through the court. Often enforcement is at the State level, but several state courts have indicated that terms like this are not enforceable.

I'm pretty certain this has been the case for ages (2, Interesting)

Mister Xiado (1606605) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005889)

The problem is, the morons who are only going with AT&T because they simply MUST have an iPhone are the same type of idiots who won't read their bills, much less the contract before signing it. Did you know that if you call AT&T to complain about minute overages and data use charges, your service can be terminated without notice, immediately? I can assure you that it won't unless you start making threats over the phone, but it's in the damn contract, in which the only fine print is the names of the cities on the coverage map.

Re:I'm pretty certain this has been the case for a (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006113)

The problem is, the morons who are only going with AT&T because they simply MUST have an iPhone are the same type of idiots who won't read their bills, much less the contract before signing it.

Wow, Mister Xiado, how'd you come to that conclusion? Wanting an iPhone, and as a result, being tied to AT&T makes one an moron/idiot?

Did you know that if you call AT&T to complain about minute overages and data use charges, your service can be terminated without notice, immediately? I can assure you that it won't unless you start making threats over the phone, but it's in the damn contract, in which the only fine print is the names of the cities on the coverage map.

[Citation Needed] I've read the terms of service (not every word, but the gist of the various sections) and I'd be very surprised that there's anything that says what you've written.

Please, provide a link, or quote from, the relevant section that specifically states that merely complaining about charges allows them to terminate your contract immediately and without notice.

Or was this some sort of reverse idiot test? Where you see how many up mods you can get from idiots who merely like the idea that what you wrote might be true?

Surprised? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29005911)

I already canceled my AT&T service over their use of warrantless surveillance, their censoring of Pearl Jam, their blocking of web sites, and their influencing of American Idol voting outcomes. There are alternatives out there, and AT&T will only be able to continue doing stuff like this as long as people keep doing business with them.

Re:Surprised? (2, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005969)

I already canceled my AT&T service over their use of warrantless surveillance, their censoring of Pearl Jam, their blocking of web sites, and their influencing of American Idol voting outcomes. There are alternatives out there, and AT&T will only be able to continue doing stuff like this as long as people keep doing business with them.

Let me get this straight - you place "influencing of American Idol voting" on par with "warrantless surveillance"?

Re:Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006099)

Re:Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006179)

I already canceled my AT&T service over their use of warrantless surveillance, their censoring of Pearl Jam, their blocking of web sites, and their influencing of American Idol voting outcomes. There are alternatives out there, and AT&T will only be able to continue doing stuff like this as long as people keep doing business with them.

Let me get this straight - you place "influencing of American Idol voting" on par with "warrantless surveillance"?

He might have listed them in order of descending priority. But I'll point out that the influencing of polls for a popular tv voting-based competition just as unfairly violates the rights of the contestants as does using warrantless surveillance. Imagine if, in some parallel universe, Slashdot Idol had the same publicity, contracts, sponsorships, and prize money that represented X number of dollars paid out over a lifetime, you'd be rediculously pissed if you lost that future cashflow simply because the internet company decided to influence voters' opinions because they liked the other guy more.

Keep an eye on H.R. 1020 (2, Informative)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005945)

H.R. 1020 [govtrack.us] is an attempt to put some reasonable limits on mandatory arbitration. It's not doing too well, but write your congressman.

Nothing beats the government (1)

mi (197448) | more than 5 years ago | (#29005997)

While private companies' contracts may seem outrageous, nothing beats the government agencies [masspike.com] at this game:

a) The MTA may change the "FAST LANE Program Terms and Conditions" at any time by giving customers notice thereof. The terms and conditions shall become effective seven (7) days after such notice has been given. No written notice is required, and you hereby waive any requirement that written notice be provided. Such notice may be given through any means, including, but not limited to, advertising such notice in the media, posting such notice on message boards along the MTA's toll roadways, or otherwise, as determined by the MTA. If you have provided an electronic mailing address to the MTA with your application, you authorize that such notice may be provided by sending such notice to that electronic mail address, in the MTA's discretion.

Re:Nothing beats the government (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006095)

And this is why I would *NEVER* give the MTA or any other similar organization free will to deduct money from my checking account and/or bill my credit card in exchange for saving a few seconds when I travel. Nope. Never. Not gonna do it.

And this doesn't even cover how they now send you tickets using data gathered by these systems. So now you don't even need to get caught by a live policeman. So much for due process.

Re:Nothing beats the government (1)

DJ Particle (1442247) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006297)

I'd heard about that...so if you have a transponder, and your average speed between 2 checkpoints is over the limit (based on time codes), you get a ticket? I don't see how that can be legal. That will cause more accidents than save them (as paranoid people with transponders will be traveling markedly slower than the rest of the traffic and become obstacles...I know how they drive in MA)

Re:Nothing beats the government (2, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006181)

How exactly is that outrageous? The MTA might change their terms, and they will make an effort to let people know about it in various ways, although probably not by sending out mail to every MTA Fast Lane participant?

Oh! The horrors!

Most corporate terms of services have similar clauses, although the lack requirement for written notification isn't always included, there are many situations where it is. In fact, the only examples where I recall receiving terms changes via mail these days are from financial institutions, which makes me think it's most likely a legal requirement. Everyone else pretty much just tells you to keep your eye on some web page somewhere.

Land of the Free and Hone Of the Brave? (1)

phlegmboy (1067452) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006005)

Not when it comes to Corporate America and their victims^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers.

It seems that in the USA the corporates can just bend you right over and fist fuck you till they have extracted all they can then just toss you away like yesterdays garbage.

Re:Land of the Free and Hone Of the Brave? (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006107)

Yes, as long as corporations own our politicians, that's exactly how it's gonna keep working.

is this legal? certainly not ETHICAL (3, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006045)

There are a lot of specific examples of where you can't just dump in certain exemptions into your TOS and wash your hands of liability. I'm surprised this isn't one of them.

I don't see why it's legal in a generic sense to be able to surrender your rights to legal action as a TOS.

Because I can't stand AT&T (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006073)

...because of crap like this.... ...because of their secret rooms [homelandstupidity.us] .. ...because they spied on Americans' emails [alternet.org] ... ...because they provided the NSA with a database of American's phone calls [usatoday.com] ... ...because they used their influence to lobby Congress to retroactively get immunity and hide their activities [gizmodo.com] ... ...because of their former CEO's stated views on Network Neutrality [lightreading.com] ...

I'm telling everyone I know to switch to T-Mobile. I get great 3G reception, they will actually unlock my phone after a couple months, they have great customer support (in my experience), visual voicemail, and they support Android. $25/a month for unlimited internet...

I have NO affiliation with T-Mobile aside from using them for a couple years, and I would invite criticism of them so people can make an informed decision. I'm just sayin... in MHO an iPhone isn't worth AT&T. For anyone on the fence, Android is actually pretty damn great.

The Free Market Punishes Consumers Again (4, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006087)

This is a great reason for public-owned internet services. Once they get monopoly power, you feel the business end of their business.

Re:The Free Market Punishes Consumers Again (2, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006151)

It's not a free market. There are government controls that prevent it from being a free market, like allowing people/corporations to own certain frequencies of radio waves.

Re:The Free Market Punishes Consumers Again (2, Insightful)

Macrat (638047) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006209)

Or when corporations run the government.

Great news for iPhone users! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006189)

I'm a PC, and I use a prepaid phone service. :) *ba-dum-dum-ksssh*

One Wonders... (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006227)

... even if AT&T does that will it actually stop them. I can imagine that a court might rule that AT&T can't do this.

Contract buggy blue, no suing back! (4, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006239)

Forgive my non-lawyer ignorance, but can you actually forbid someone from suing you? As a retroactive clause in a contract, even?

"By downloading this pirated video off BitTorrent, you have implicitly agreed to forfeit any and all options of initiating a lawsuit for copyright infringement."

Wonder if that would work.

Hint: Probably not. :P

Already tried, already failed (5, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 5 years ago | (#29006323)

AT&T/Cingular already tried these terms with their cel-phone service. They failed. [consumerwatchdog.org]

Dark side of the iphone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29006367)

And in other headlines, ATT Makes service even worse, to discourage customers : CEO states "that's right, we don't give a flying fuck - we own the iphone bitches!"

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