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Courts Reject Tech Corporation Bans on Class Action Suits

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the that's-going-to-get-ugly-fast dept.

The Courts 102

Frosty Piss writes "Class action waivers included in cell phone companies' contracts with customers are invalid in Washington State because they violate the state's Consumer Protection Act, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday. Five plaintiffs accused Cingular of overcharging customers between $1 and $40 per month in roaming and hidden charges. Cingular had an arbitration clause that required individual arbitration and prohibited class action litigation or class action arbitration. From the article: 'In another class action-related ruling issued Thursday, the high court unanimously ruled in favor of a couple that filed a class action suit against America Online, Inc., claiming the Internet provider created and charged them for secondary membership accounts that they didn't want.'"

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102 comments

Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849675)

Is either a fool or a coward.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 7 years ago | (#19849881)

Is either a fool or a coward.

So, if you sign a cell phone contract, with a 14 day return policy, and on day 20 you get your bill and discover that they've overcharged you, you are a coward? Your options are basically:

  1. Cancel and pay the $175-$200 fee. Pay the overcharges or dispute them.
  2. Cancel and refuse to pay the $175-$200 fee. Buckle down for a fight over your credit report that you will probably lose and higher interest rates for the next seven years.
  3. Sue them.

The game is tilted against the consumer in these scenarios. And I'm glad this ruling came down the way it did. It's not right that a contract can force you to give up your legal right to seek relief in court. And before any wise-ass comes back with "then don't sign it", try living with a cell phone, credit card, phone service, bank account, etc, etc, etc. They are all doing it!

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 7 years ago | (#19849919)

try living with a cell phone, credit card, phone service

try living without. *sigh*

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 7 years ago | (#19850157)

Getting a cell phone without signing anything is trivial. I have had prepaid service for a year now. I have never had a credit card. And land line phone service... what is this, the 20th century?

PS: I am 25.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 7 years ago | (#19850521)

Getting a cell phone without signing anything is trivial. I have had prepaid service for a year now

Cool, I want to be cell-phone only so I don't have to deal with two numbers. Since it's my primary line, find me a pre-paid plan that's competitive. Counting nights and weekends I use about 2,500 - 3,000 minutes a month. On a post-paid plan of $39.99 (1k peak minutes/unlim n&w on T-Mobile) that's $0.013 a min for 3,000 minutes. Find me a pre-paid plan that's competitive with that.

Oh, that's right, you can't, because the pre-paid offerings are purposefully crippled to make them useless for anything but light use.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850675)

Congrats. You spend 10% of your waking life on your cell phone. What are you, a 13 year old girl?

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (4, Funny)

Evilest Doer (969227) | about 7 years ago | (#19851263)

What are you, a 13 year old girl?
No, he's an FBI agent. Don't you know anything about the internet?

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

laffer1 (701823) | about 7 years ago | (#19851545)

Maybe he has a job! I know that is a shocking concept on slashdot. I have coworkers call my cell phone all the time. My wife and I decided to ditch landlines on our last move. It's about the same cost as a very cheap t-mobile plan + bare bones AT&T line, but we went with sprint. I figure that we'll save money after this contract by switching to another carrier.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | about 7 years ago | (#19853017)

Anyone who is on their cellphone for three hours a day for work purposes on a personal phone is a dick. Get on the corporate plan, or get a company account, whatever. Whatcha' gonna do if you get stiffed on the bill - it's you, liable.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19856281)

Unless you are the company, such as those of us who contract. It's part of the cost of doing business.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (0)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 7 years ago | (#19851619)

I was trying to think of a good way to summarize my reply, and a sibling post did it better than I ever could. 3000 minutes a month? WTF? You need to find more efficient ways to communicate. I don't know if you are spending all that time for business or personal needs, but either way...

Introduce your friends/coworkers to email, forums, wikis, SMS, etc. I probably spend about 5 hours a day (call it 9000 minutes a month) communicating with friends and coworkers and relatives, *total*, but 50% of that is in person and 50% of the rest is via email lists and forums, and 50% of the rest is group voice chat (ventrilo, teamspeak, skype, google, etc) with multiple people at once, ALL of which get a lot more accomplished for the time spent than individual phone calls would, and for FAR less money.

After exhausting all the better means, I use 100-200 minutes a month on my phone, which is my primary and only line. That is emergency midnight calls to and from work to handle server hiccups and such, last minute when/where calls to friends when we are doing stuff, the occasional takeout/delivery order to a restaurant that doesnt have online ordering yet, and a little time spent talking to relatives who are still stuck in the 80s.

Thanks to using prepaid, I have never been locked to one provider by hardware shenanigans. I have never had to sign a contract for my phone. And I have never paid for minutes that I didn't use.

You remind me of people who "cant" ride the bus because they "need" to get to the grocery store on a moment's notice at a random time every day.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19852009)

You need to find more efficient ways to communicate. ... Introduce your friends/coworkers to email, forums, wikis, SMS, etc.
It's not like voice has no advantage over text. For personal communications, I would take phone over text any day.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (2, Funny)

raftpeople (844215) | about 7 years ago | (#19852519)

3000 minutes a month? WTF? You need to find more efficient ways to communicate

My grandpa uses 0 minutes per month, man that guy is really efficient!

Introduce your friends/coworkers to email, forums, wikis, SMS, etc

My daughter uses SMS and is much more efficient than me because I use voice, here is an example of a speed comparison:

Me speaking on cell phone to daughter: "I will pick you up in 10 minutes for soccer practice"
Daughter texting: OK

As you can see texting is clearly faster, now let's try a wiki example:

Me speaking on cell phone to co-worker: "To boot the server, just flip the big red switch"
Co-worker using wiki: {1 mouse click on hyperlink to "Booting the Server"}

Again, no comparison. Let's make sure a forum is more efficient also:

Me speaking on cell phone to friend: "Man I wish I knew if Sony had cut the price of the PS3, I really think I would buy one if they did, unfortunately I don't know and neither do you because we're both having this conversation on this dang cell phone!"
Friend reading slashdot: "Sony Drops PS3 Price"

It's pretty clear, the cell phone is probably one of the less efficient tools in our arsenal.

Tune in next week for another in depth efficiency article titled "The Wheel - What Went Wrong?"

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | about 7 years ago | (#19852953)

Me speaking on cell phone to daughter: "I will pick you up in 10 minutes for soccer practice"
Daughter texting: OK
Why are you making plans to pick her up for soccer practice 10 minutes ahead of time instead of a day or a week? When I had after school or weekend activities as a child I knew which parent would be taking me, and when, at least a few days in advance.

Me speaking on cell phone to co-worker: "To boot the server, just flip the big red switch"
Co-worker using wiki: {1 mouse click on hyperlink to "Booting the Server"}
This is *EXACTLY* why we have set up a jabber server in our offices. 200 users, 2 IT/sysadmin guys. I'll take jabber over the phone for nonsense like that any day.

Me speaking on cell phone to friend: "Man I wish I knew if Sony had cut the price of the PS3, I really think I would buy one if they did, unfortunately I don't know and neither do you because we're both having this conversation on this dang cell phone!"
Friend reading slashdot: "Sony Drops PS3 Price"
Why didn't "friend" email you? Or ask on a forum where dozens of your friends could have answered, whoever saw it soonest? What would have happened if he couldn't reach you on the phone, he would have never found the answer?

I definitely agree, the cell phone is probably the least efficient communications tool most people have available.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (4, Funny)

raftpeople (844215) | about 7 years ago | (#19855847)

Why are you making plans to pick her up for soccer practice 10 minutes ahead of time instead of a day or a week? When I had after school or weekend activities as a child I knew which parent would be taking me, and when, at least a few days in advance.

Lets check and see how that would work:

As I pick up daughter for soccer, she asks: "You're late, why didn't you call?"

Me: "Traffic was bad but Sparr0 didn't want me to use my cell to make a voice call, so I used my cell and text'd my status to the Soccer Parents forum, I hoped you might have seen it there."

Daughter: "I don't go to that forum"

Me: "Dang"

Daughter: "Who's Sparr0?"

Me: "He's a poster on slashdot, seems to know all situations in which a cell phone might be used, turns out they just aren't efficient. Anyway, instead of me just telling you, why don't you check the the wiki I setup, it should explain everything."

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 7 years ago | (#19875445)

You need to find more efficient ways to communicate. I don't know if you are spending all that time for business or personal needs, but either way...

So, because my calling patterns don't fall into something that would work with pre-paid service I need to find a more efficient way to communicate? WTF? How does that disprove my point that pre-paid service won't work for everybody?

Yes, perhaps I'm a phone-aholic, but I could have made that example with somebody who only uses 500 minutes a month (16 minutes a day). At ten cents a minute on T-Mobile prepaid (the cheapest one there is) that's still $50 a month. T-Mobile's 600 minute post-paid plan is $39.99 and you get nights and weekends to boot (find me a pre-paid service with nights and weekends). Or you could go with the 300 minute $29.99 plan with free nights and move 200 minutes to nights. Either way, the post-paid option is cheaper.

Either way, pre-paid is basically useless unless you barely use your cell phone. And at that, T-Mobile is the only one that isn't a complete rip-off. 10 cents a minute assuming you buy $100 worth of airtime. That's a fair deal. Everybody else is either 25 cents a minute (or more) or they charge you a daily fee every single time you use the phone.

I have never had to sign a contract for my phone.

*shrug*, with T-Mobile I signed a one year contract when I signed up with them. Got the same deal as I would have with a two year. Now if my phone dies I'll just buy a $30 replacement at Wally World (one of the to-go kits) without touching my contract.

You remind me of people who "cant" ride the bus because they "need" to get to the grocery store on a moment's notice at a random time every day.

You remind me of people who think their lifestyle choices automatically apply to everybody else without even considering the situation of the other person.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 7 years ago | (#19851579)

Pre-paid service? Say no more. You're already getting overcharged. Avoiding the contract doesn't solve anything. You're just taking the price raping spread out over all your service rather than being threatened with it if you leave.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

swv3752 (187722) | about 7 years ago | (#19852625)

MetroPCS, if you happen to live in one of their Areas. Flat rate pricing with no contract. I've had them for over 5 years.

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (1)

Phantom Gremlin (161961) | about 7 years ago | (#19855947)

AT&T has two variations of "Pay As You Go". No contract, no commitment. One is $1.00 per day plus $0.10 per minute. The other is $0.25 per minute.

You must add $25 every 90 days. That works out to around $8.40 per month as long as you only talk about 33 minutes a month (if you choose the $0.25 per minute version). And as long as you keep adding every 90 days, you don't lose your previous balance. Perfect for semi-emergency use.

I don't consider that "price raping".

Re:Anyone who gets overcharged for anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19856271)

> 1. Cancel and pay the $175-$200 fee. Pay the overcharges or dispute them.
> 2. Cancel and refuse to pay the $175-$200 fee. Buckle down for a fight over your credit report that you will probably lose and higher interest rates for the next seven years.
> 3. Sue them.

4. Get some friends together and visit a few of their towers, simultaneously, some night. "Timberrr!"

Call it "customer satisfaction taken to the extreme".

Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849697)

I've been on the winning end of several class actions. All I get is a small pittance or worthless voucher. Lawyers get millions and millions.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (4, Insightful)

Gman14msu (993012) | about 7 years ago | (#19849775)

Well while class action suits are about benefiting the customers who were wronged, it`s also about punishing the companies that are misbehaving. While each individual consumer may not gain a great sum of money, the sum for the whole group may make the company change policies.

This is not to mention the bad publicity that comes from losing a major class action suit. That's probably where the most harm comes to a company in the long run. In this case the adage that "Any publicity is good publicity" is probably wrong as these are already well known entities. Of course the only "public" that hears about this may only be slashdot, which has the numbers to take down a server, but probably not a Fortune 500.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (1)

the_humeister (922869) | about 7 years ago | (#19850753)

In this case the adage that "Any publicity is good publicity" is probably wrong as these are already well known entities.


What are you talking about? Why just look at that rapper Kevin Federline. He's as famous as ever. Compare with his ex-wife, who I can't even remember her name. Some singer I think.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19850853)

So a company is punished when the settlement has a clause that stipulates that anyone accepting the settlement money must also extend their cell contract by another year? Or anyone wronged gets 'coupons' to buy cell phone's on the offenders network? Wow, what a punishment!

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (2, Informative)

db32 (862117) | about 7 years ago | (#19851327)

Yeah...because all those class action lawsuits that SBC faced and lost over various sheisty practices over their early DSL offerings did SOOO much to help us all out get honest deals on DSL from AT&T now that they have all been allowed to remerge together. The people who "won" got all of a few bucks in a check that came almost a year later... I got more bang for my buck just griping at them up the chain for a few hours until I was eventually credited 6 months free DSL for their various screwups. Course it was 6 months of free crappy DSL that still didn't meet what I was promised, but at least it was free and lasted long enough for new competitors that weren't total screwups to enter the market. I have not had Telco direct provided DSL in 8 years because of that.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (5, Insightful)

camperslo (704715) | about 7 years ago | (#19849817)

When the class gets paid in vouchers, the lawyers should be paid in vouchers.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (2, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 7 years ago | (#19850155)

I'm fine with vouchers for everyone, as long as the vouchers are manufactured by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

(The same goes for holiday gift certificates.)

They do, by making companies think twice (3, Insightful)

megaditto (982598) | about 7 years ago | (#19849903)

Class action lawsuits is one way to level the playing field and make companies care about their consumers by going after the only thing they understand: their bottom lines.

After all, the companies have massive legal departments, paid 24/7 access to the Congress with the ability to (re)write the laws, they can drag out even the most solidly grounded lawsuits forever through the appeals process and wait for the victim to go bankrupt with all those legal and court fees. Any individual claims that do get through all the way are likely to be small, and will not impact the profit margins at all.

Consequently, limiting class-action suits, along with court-awarded damages and restitution is a horrible idea; corporations would be able to literally kill thousands and still turn a profit!

Limiting class-action suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849971)

How about limiting the percent of the payout that the lawyers can get. Or setting some minimum floor that HAS to go to the class and not the lawyers.

I bet, in most of these cases, the cost of the action just gets passed on to future consumers.

If class actions are about limiting corporate malfeasance, forbid them from passing on the costs to consumers and limit the amount lawyers can take of the award.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850133)

Lawers only get paid if they win (and most times they do not). As such, high payments as a reward for success are not unreasonable given how much work is involved in representing the consumers.

If the companies pass on too much of the settlement cost onto the consumers themselves, they will lose to their competitors.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (2, Informative)

Evilest Doer (969227) | about 7 years ago | (#19851393)

If the companies pass on too much of the settlement cost onto the consumers themselves, they will lose to their competitors.
Thank you. This is what the corporate shills on television and radio don't understand (well, actually they probably understand, but they will never openly say it). A rise in taxes or an assessment of fines for illegal business practices does not translate into a direct increase in consumer costs since, in a healthy marketplace, competition will help set the price. What taxes and fines eat into to a much greater degree are the profits that the owners, CEO's, et cetera wind up being able to take home (which is why shills are hired in the first place).

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | about 7 years ago | (#19850139)

I bet, in most of these cases, the cost of the action just gets passed on to future consumers.
This is the way it is in every case, well, from future and past customers, because that is the only place a corporation has to get its money.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

FLEB (312391) | about 7 years ago | (#19850175)

You talk as if companies can just magically force people to pay more... okay, there are those "Compliance Fees" on phone bill that are basically "our lobbying money", so I suppose there's some instance, but still...

If a company "passes along" a charge to a consumer, that makes their product less attractive, and they stand to lose out to unburdened competitors. The company's having to decide where to trim costs or hike prices to pay the settlement is part of dealing with the settlement.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | about 7 years ago | (#19850325)

If a company "passes along" a charge to a consumer
Where else do you think they acquire the funds to pay a fine?

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#19851197)

Where else do you think they acquire the funds to pay a fine?
Companies will usually take the hit to their profits not pass it along to the customer. If they had the pricing leverage, they already would have been charging more.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | about 7 years ago | (#19854169)

Profits, every dollar, come from the businesses customers. Every dollar spent to pay a fine came from them and every dollar spent to recoup that fine will as well. Customers pay the businesses fines, just like taxes.

It doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of higher prices. There are dozens of ways to 'pass it along'.

Re:Limiting class-action suits (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 7 years ago | (#19860713)

Profits, every dollar, come from the businesses customers. Every dollar spent to pay a fine came from them and every dollar spent to recoup that fine will as well. Customers pay the businesses fines, just like taxes.


Well where do you think the customers got their money? From the business that they work for. So really it's just the other business that's paying the fine. But THAT business is really just getting its money from its customers, etc.

Arguing that business never really pay anything is just as silly as arguing that individuals never really pay anything. We're all part of the same economy, and if you have an extra, unnecessary expense while you're holding the money, you become less able to compete with others who don't have that same expense because they didn't screw up.

Re:They do, by making companies think twice (4, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 7 years ago | (#19850305)

Consequently, limiting class-action suits, along with court-awarded damages and restitution is a horrible idea; corporations would be able to literally kill thousands and still turn a profit!

How about my idea: punitive damages go to the federal government's general fund. That way, you can still punish corporations that don't understand motivations other than financial penalties, but remove all profit incentive from the equation. Would this have any drawbacks?

not a new idea (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#19852255)

How about my idea: punitive damages go to the federal government's general fund. That way, you can still punish corporations that don't understand motivations other than financial penalties, but remove all profit incentive from the equation. Would this have any drawbacks?

Some states already do that.

Re:They do, by making companies think twice (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 7 years ago | (#19860683)

you can still punish corporations that don't understand motivations other than financial penalties, but remove all profit incentive from the equation. Would this have any drawbacks?


Well, yeah, nobody would file class action lawsuits because there'd be no money in it. The whole point of the class-action statutes is essentially to recognize that the government is incapable of fixing every illegal corporate behavior, yet individual victims of widespread behavior face a hopelessly lopsided and financially ruinous fight even in the best-case scenario. So rather than increasing taxes by huge amounts to increase government oversight, we provide a profit incentive for private attorneys to essentially act as freelance regulators by filing class-action suits on their own dime.

Of course, the problem is that the courts and legislatures are doing a piss-poor job of ensuring that settlements are actually in the consumer's interest. Settlements that are essentially expensive marketing campaigns for the violator are becoming sickeningly common. They still prove to be a costly thing for companies to want to avoid, but they don't have the teeth to truly make better consumer contracts and such more commonplace.

Re:They do, by making companies think twice (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 7 years ago | (#19850881)

My only problem with class action lawsuits are the ones where some lawyer finds a "problem" and then goes looking for someone as the base for setting up a class action lawsuit. (I may have the wording wrong, but I remember reading about a law firm that that was basically all they did). I'm not sure how you fix that without taking away the ability of individuals to group together to make the case big enough to be worth the money to litigate for what is sometimes a serious issue.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (3, Insightful)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#19849927)

If I'm screwed out of a lot of money, I'd want compensation, but if I only have a small loss, I'm mostly interested in the company not benefitting from screwing me over. Having them stop is more important to me for those situations. But the time and cost to myself is too high for an individual.

If the lawyer can shoulder the time and cost, I don't mind them getting a big payout, I wouldn't hope to get much back if I only lost like 50 bucks to the corporation. Hopefully they'll change their policy and that would still help me at least.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (1)

FLEB (312391) | about 7 years ago | (#19850089)

Then obviously you've never been on the winning end.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 7 years ago | (#19850129)

You mean he's not a lawyer?

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (4, Interesting)

pintpusher (854001) | about 7 years ago | (#19850109)

On the one hand, class actions give the consumers the opportunity to build up enough clout to get noticed and possibly get the corp to change its behavior. Plaintiffs get added to the suit more or less automatically (you've seen those mailers that notify you that you're involved...). But the consumer rarely (in my experience) gets any real remuneration as a result. In this particular Cingular case, the plaintiffs could have added just about anybody who used their service during the specified period resulting in many thousands of plaintiffs in the class action. Cingular would probably have to pay out a few dollars per plaintiff in the form of future credits or something like that, plus legal fees. Of course, it may also allow them to weasel their way out of paying those who are no longer customers and various other bits of chicanery. But, by the nature of the class action, the handful of initial plaintiffs are able to leverage themselves into a position of reasonably significant power and actually get something done. (note that I haven't read the Cingular case, and my inferences above are based on my past experiences with class actions).

On the other hand (bet you forgot about that first hand up there!) according the TFA, Cingular is willing to pay out the state's defined small-claims amount _or more_ in individual arbitration. That's $4,000 in Washington state. But they're banking on the idea that only a handful of individuals would bother. However, if the customers were actually pro-active about it and all those who were eligible for the class action took the initiative and entered arbitration for something that was provably wrong on the part of the corp, then the individual plaintiffs stand to gain significantly more on an individual basis while the corpp stand to lose significantly more.

I would like to see some consumer advocacy group take a different approach in cases like these. I'd like to see them run a couple test arbitrations from their pool of original plaintiffs. If they are successful, use the information gathered as a result of this to assist additional plaintiffs in pursuing the same arbitration. They could put together packages of "how-to arbitrate the cingular over-charging thing" and send them to anyone who would have been eligible for the class action in the first place. Then you'd possibly see (provided the rewards were high enough) a significant number of well-armed plaintiffs entering arbitration at the same time. THat would likely have a real affect on a large corp. Nothing like having the legal dept suddenly swamped with massive number of arbitrations and then finding lots of well informed and prepared plaintiffs across the table from them. They may find themselves in a situation where they are _asking_ for a class action in violation of their own contract. That would be nice.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (3, Informative)

Shajenko42 (627901) | about 7 years ago | (#19850797)

The biggest complaint about the binding arbitration nonsense is that the company making the contract selects who will do the arbitration, and if they lose too many cases, fire them.

In essence, you have to take up the complaint you have with the company with the company itself, and they're hardly unbiased. And I'm sure they would require that the arbitrations happen on their time table, one on one only, no lawyers allowed on the customer's side.

Re:Do class action suits ever benefit the consumer (1)

pintpusher (854001) | about 7 years ago | (#19851687)

That's why it has to be a concerted effort by many many plaintiffs simultaneously. Really more of a mass protest I guess than any real remedy. The idea, in my mind, is to swamp them with a situation they can't ignore such that these arbitration clauses become counter-productive for them.

Imagine the splash when many thousands of certified letters requesting arbitration arrive in the legal dept all at the same time. A little press action thrown in would make for an interesting day. The point is to make the corps recognize that if they ask for something like no class action lawsuits, that they should be prepared to face the consequences. A well organized mass effort would certainly make an impact. meh.

Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (4, Insightful)

shutupkevin (1127139) | about 7 years ago | (#19849721)

Too many companies nowadays are taking advantage of the vast amount of population that pay money for a service that they don't completely understand. How many people actually know what all of those surcharges on their cellular/telephone/isp bills are for? I hope this ruling occurs eventually in New York as well.

Re:Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (3, Insightful)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 7 years ago | (#19850099)

Too many companies nowadays are taking advantage of the vast amount of population that pay money for a service that they don't completely understand. How many people actually know what all of those surcharges on their cellular/telephone/isp bills are for? I hope this ruling occurs eventually in New York as well.

This is why I believe companies should be required to show 'total costs' in any marketing and documentation. Total costs would be described as what the customer pays at the end of the month if they don't knowingly opt-in to extras or stay within the bounds of the base package. Extras whether they are roaming, extra functionality and on should also be described in a manner where the customer does not need a degree to understand. For example:
    - base fee, including 200 minutes: $20 (all taxes, and made up taxes are included in this figure)
    - additional per minutes charge $0.10, I used 10 extra
    - roaming charge per minute $0.20, for area X, I used 0
    - total fee would be $21.00
Easy to calculate, easy to discuss. If the companies billing systems are so complicated that even your support can't understand, then there is an issue.
   

Re:Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (1)

shutupkevin (1127139) | about 7 years ago | (#19850183)

It's actually getting worse, at least for me. My verizon bill used to show every call I made and which ones were over the minutes included in my package. Recently they've "downsized" their bill and all they show you is a total of how many minutes you went over (I suppose we're just supposed to trust them now?) and the total cost that you owe them. The full bill is still available for those tech-savvy persistent customers that actually have the time to set up a verizon online account and look for their bill online. But many bill-payers don't have the time or knowledge to create one of these accounts simply to see a list of calls. So they do end up "trusting" the company.

Re:Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 7 years ago | (#19850545)

Can you do anything about it if they get your bill wrong? Can you prove that you didnt make the calls in question or do they just get to insist you made them and charge you anyway?

Re:Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (1)

janrinok (846318) | about 7 years ago | (#19852529)

I accept the point that you are making, but have you any examples where the company has made 'mistakes' i.e. where it cannot be 'trusted'? If the end result is that they are making no more mistakes now than they ever did (and that such mistakes are rectified when identified) then there might be a good case for their change to the billing format if they are saving you, the customer, money. But I suspect that you are right, because people do not see their bill they no longer know what mistakes are being made.

Re:Taking advantage of the non-tech savvy? (2, Interesting)

cecille (583022) | about 7 years ago | (#19850187)

Not even the sales people understand. I just signed on to a plan with Bell. They had recently re-done their plans and now they were something like "15 dollars less", but now include a "network fee" of...you guessed it...round about the amount the plan decreased by in the first place. I could not for the life of me get the sales person to actually explain what the hell I was paying for in the contract fee if it wasn't actually to use their network for my cell service. IE...if I don't pay the "network fee" then I don't have cell service at all. The contract fee is therefore for nothing.

Just a reminder... (5, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | about 7 years ago | (#19849749)

Just a reminder, kids. Just because you put something in a "contract" doesn't make it legal or enforceable. No need to get your panties in a bunch over the fine print in cell phone contracts, EULA's, etc.

Re:Just a reminder... (1)

Shut the fuck up! (572058) | about 7 years ago | (#19849779)

Thanks, Dad! You're always there for me and I appreciate your advice.

Re:Just a reminder... (1)

PhxBlue (562201) | about 7 years ago | (#19850105)

You're still in a stronger position if you negotiate the contract in the first place. The better thing to remember is: It's a contract, and you can negotiate it before you sign it. The cell phone company may tell you where to stick it, and they're not going to change their contract for anyone; or they might let you add or remove terms for your individual contract, because it means they won't have to make those changes for everybody.

Re:Just a reminder... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 7 years ago | (#19850233)

'' You're still in a stronger position if you negotiate the contract in the first place. The better thing to remember is: It's a contract, and you can negotiate it before you sign it. ''

I always thought whatever is in a contract with a consumer who _hasn't_ negotiated the contract is subject to consumer protection laws, and lots of things that would be entirely legal in a contract that could be held against you just don't count because of consumer protection laws. But as soon as you negotiate the contract, all that is gone. Your negotiation might improve what's written in the contract, but you might actually lose out because the original contract didn't actually count for anything.

Re:Just a reminder... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19851285)

verily so in Wisconsin. The burden of establishing the meaning of a faulty contract is placed on the party that drafted the contract. If you just sign, you are less at fault than if you contribute to the language (or lack thereof) in the contract.

Re:Just a reminder... (5, Interesting)

pintpusher (854001) | about 7 years ago | (#19850427)

The better thing to remember is: It's a contract, and you can negotiate it before you sign it.
I had an interesting adventure with a major corp recently. I was being courted by a major food service vendor who has recently moved into this area. I'm a pretty small fish -- maybe $1,000 a week in wholesale grocery supplies, but their sales rep has a couple major accounts on either side of me and it was easy for him to stop in. So we went through the whole deal of pricing everything out and determined that we could save a reasonable amount by using this company.

So out comes the "application". I've been in the restaurant business for a few years now and have some idea of what standard practice is... anyway, I decided I didn't want credit. I wanted to just purchase COD. It's really easier in the long run in many ways -- less book-keeping, easier to budget money, instant credit, no messing with chargebacks or mystery invoices etc etc etc. So I start reading through the various agreements they expect me to sign. I looked at the salesman and said "you know I want COD only?" He agreed it was ridiculous. So I told him I'd mark it up over the next few days and then he could pick it up.

So there were three agreements. One was a personal guarantee, which I never sign, ever. So a big line through that one. The second was a statement about my legal right to purchase wholesale in the state (no biggie, standard stuff and a tax id number). The third was essentially a credit app with some extra stuff thrown in relating to how to deal with bad product and so forth. So I start lining through stuff that doesn't apply to COD, stuff that puts all of my company's assets on the line for groceries. I rewrite a couple of other bits to make them more palatable to me, like fixing the court of jurisdiction to be my state, not theirs; changing the part about 3 days written notice by certified return receipt if we get bad product; etc etc. When it was all done, I'd probably struck a good 60% of the contract and rewritten another 20%, and then I signed it.

About two weeks go by and we hear from the salesman (you should have seen the look on his face when he picked the thing up). The credit department (I don't want credit) had denied my application, not because of all the stuff in the contract that I'd marked up, but because I hadn't signed the personal guarantee. go figure. So all I can assume is they know their contract is onerous and were willing to let it go so long as I put all my personal crap on the line for a COD account. needless to say, I'm still using my old provider who loves me and gets paid every week for seven years...

I think I'll write a "service provider agreement" and make anyone who wants to provide me a service sign it.... hmmm... that might be fun ;)

Re:Just a reminder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19852057)

All these mega corps are using policies, whether they make sense or not. Then the workers turned into robots to enforce the policy. At the end, no one is accountable, because they all point to the policy. Take a look here for a good example http://evilunitedairlines.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Re:Just a reminder... (1)

DogDude (805747) | about 7 years ago | (#19852195)

I tend to sign those things because I've never seen that stuff enforced. If they don't agree to do something, and back it up with "the contract says so", I explain that they're going to ignore the contract, or not do business with me.

I thought about writing up my own terms for anything I sign (sign up for a phone contract, and hand them my standard addendums along with the signed contract, for example), but it would never go through. That's why I sign and worry about it later (unless of course, it's some kind of long term contract).

I've never run into an actual vendor that didn't bend for me. Phone companies, credit card companies, banks, etc are all a different story. I've been through (3) different phone companies in 5 years because they've all pissed me off in one way or another. That, and the "Real Yellow Pages" don't get a listing from me anymore.

I want somebody, no matter what it is I'm buying, to speak to me like a human being and to be reasonable and fair. I know that's a lot to ask, but the second somebody starts pointing at a contract, I dump 'em. That's just how I work.

Re:Just a reminder... (2, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | about 7 years ago | (#19852401)

I tend to sign those things because I've never seen that stuff enforced. If they don't agree to do something, and back it up with "the contract says so", I explain that they're going to ignore the contract, or not do business with me.


Let us know how that works when you get sued for breach of contract. kthxbye.

Re:Just a reminder... (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | about 7 years ago | (#19852461)

The credit department (I don't want credit) had denied my application, not because of all the stuff in the contract that I'd marked up, but because I hadn't signed the personal guarantee.

They also probably decided that someone who was going to bother them over every single little aspect of a contract was probably more trouble than they were worth as a customer.

So, where is that part on Amazon.com... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#19850997)

That lets you offer amendments to the proposed agreement. I presume it must be there, or it isn't really a contract, right?

Unless you happen to be dealing with someone who's large enough to have a legal department which reviews such things regularly, or you're doing so much business (or have a susbtantially large transaction) that they really are negotiating one on one, there is essentially no reason for them to accept anything other than the boilerplate version. Having a junior staff lawyer at $125/hr review your markups to their contract (probably twice, at least, in any negotiation process), as well as the postage/admin time just isn't worth it for a contract worth $1000 in gross revenue over two years, or that can be cancelled for $175 and you keep a handset they've subsidized by $50-$250.

I regularly negotiate my contracts, but I'm the chief, cook, and bottle washer. If there is a serious legal issue I have to get formally reviewed by my council, it would have to be on a contract worth at least $10-15k, otherwise, I'm just go to say "no, thanks." It's just not worth it.

Re:Just a reminder... (1)

mchale (104743) | about 7 years ago | (#19852885)

The clauses in contracts requiring arbitration are bad news.

There are two basic kinds of arbitration -- mandatory and voluntary. Mandatory arbitration, ironically, is less legally binding. Precendent in the US is that contractual arbitration clauses constitute voluntary arbitration, and as such, *are* legally binding. What that means is that if you have a problem with the company, you have to go to whatever arbitration agency the company uses, and try to argue your case to an arbiter who has a vested interest in retaining business ties with that company. And if you lose in that voluntary arbitration, you effectively have no appeal.

By the sound of it, this ruling -- against an unfair arbitration clause -- is a step in the right direction.

(IANAL, but the above information comes from a business law class.)

Opposite decision just released today in Canada (5, Interesting)

shadowspar (59136) | about 7 years ago | (#19849751)

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of Canada just released [www.cbc.ca] a decision [umontreal.ca] that cuts the opposite way. The Court upheld the "binding arbitration" clauses that many companies put in their various contracts and agreements. This essentially shields them from class actions, since disputes have to go to arbitration instead of the courts.

Since the matters involved in these cases actually took place, two provinces (Ontario and Quebec) have passed consumer protection laws (probably similar to Washington's) that protect consumers' ability to sue as a class. More jurisdictions need to step up to the plate and do the same.

Re:Opposite decision just released today in Canada (1)

Yuan-Lung (582630) | about 7 years ago | (#19851317)

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of Canada just released a decision that cuts the opposite way.


From the article linked:

Ontario and Quebec have since passed laws saying companies cannot implement mandatory arbitration clauses.
The Supreme Court wrote that the laws are not retroactive in Dumoulin's case.


It seems that the law makers are reaching the same decision what companies cannot have mandatory arbitration clauses, just that the supreme court won't let it it retroactively affect this case. Just as well, I'd say, since this case is more of an issue of greedy consumers rather than evil corporations.


From the article:

The case was prompted when Dell Inc. in 2003 posted incorrect low prices for Axim hand-held computers on its website. Instead of correct prices of $379 and $549 for the computers, prices were listed at $89 and $118.

Dell learned of the mistake and immediately erected an electronic barrier to block the page, but some consumers were able to circumvent the barrier, found the incorrect listings and placed orders.

Dell normally received between one and three weekend orders for Axim computers, but orders for 509 computers were placed that weekend.

The company issued a correction notice and offered the customers a discount, but refused to honour the incorrect price listings.

Olivier Dumoulin of Saint-Laurent, Que., in response began the class-action lawsuit, insisting that Dell honour terms and conditions of sale.


Here in the UK (1)

oneandoneis2 (777721) | about 7 years ago | (#19849763)

you can't sign away your rights, so such terms are never enforceable. I'm surprised as litigious a place as the USA still allows it.

Other than Washington, that is...

Re:Here in the UK (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | about 7 years ago | (#19849851)

Eh. We "allow" it, but it seldom works; if you can argue that they didn't uphold their end of the bargain, then the court can allow the suit to progress...This is how people sue when they sign a waiver of their legal right to sue.

The right to sue anyone for anything is practically enshrined in the Constitution, and considering the number of lawyers in the government, it's no surprise.

Re:Here in the UK (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850207)

I wonder if this would work for software licenses.

I have Ubuntu installed on my computer at home and it does not work as advertised. I know the GPL has a clause about the software not being suitable for any purpose at all, to protect the developers when they released shoddy code, but I wonder if that would hold up in court.

Say I sued Canonical and maybe the individual developers of the FSF. I wonder if they could hide behind that fitness for use clause or if it could be shown that they didn't hold up their end of the bargain. They advertised Ubuntu as being fit for desktop computing when it obviously isn't, so that should trump their attempt to skirt their responsibility by legal wrangling in the license.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 7 years ago | (#19850897)

I've thought about that myself. The UK has very clear consumer protection laws: for one thing, "goods must be fit for the purpose for which they are supplied". And no consumer can sign those rights away, no retailer can even ask them to. (This is why most companies which state terms of sale include a sentence to the effect of "your statutory rights are not affected").

However, I don't think consequential losses are necessarily covered. So you could perhaps demand your money back, but that's as far as you could go. Not terribly helpful with your average Linux distribution.

OTOH, I've noticed a pattern recently (particularly in large chains) where the staff are instructed in the company policy but not in law - and the company policy is often in complete contradiction to the law. So you wind up spending ages trying to explain that you aren't returning it under the company policy, you're returning it under the legal right to return faulty goods. It's very frustrating when the store manager is some young chap who has had zero customer service training, and the extent of the management training they received was "This is Company Policy. Thou shalt not deviate from it under any circumstances, lest Great Demons of Fire descend upon Thee and take Thee kicking and screaming Into the Fire And Brimstone of the Deepest Pits of Hell".

Re:Here in the UK (1)

Alexpkeaton1010 (1101915) | about 7 years ago | (#19851281)

"I've noticed a pattern recently (particularly in large chains) where the staff are instructed in the company policy but not in law - and the company policy is often in complete contradiction to the law."

They do this because if they can prevent x% of returns, they will make y% more money, which is > than the cost of defending against a law suit which may never come. Despicable? Definitely. Good business? Very.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

arivanov (12034) | about 7 years ago | (#19849901)

That does not prevent some companies in the UK from still trying to make you sign away your rights. This is especially valid for smaller companies which are often using a boilerplate US EULA on EU products. Unfortunately they are hardly ever challenged on this in the UK.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

debrain (29228) | about 7 years ago | (#19849913)

you can't sign away your rights, so such terms are never enforceable. I'm surprised as litigious a place as the USA still allows it.

See: Release [wikipedia.org] .

As long as there's a quid pro quo, c'est la vie, so to speak.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

bloobloo (957543) | about 7 years ago | (#19849979)

You can not release your statutory rights. Moreover, from the DTI's website: The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 (SI 1999 No 2083) provide that a term which has not been individually negotiated in a consumer contract is unfair (and hence non-binding on the consumer) if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the rights and obligations of the parties to the detriment of the consumer.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

debrain (29228) | about 7 years ago | (#19852581)

As I understand it, you can release your statutory rights, unless the are inalienable. We may be talking about separate things, but allow me to elaborate on what I'm trying to convey.

For example, you may have a statutory right to sue an insurance company because they breached a statutory obligation to pay for your medical benefits. However, if they settle the case (i.e. accept a sum of money in exchange for a release), the provision of a release intrinsically waives your statutory right to sue. In other words, you cannot both settle for a sum of money and nonetheless sue them anyway. The insurance company would rely upon your agreement to settle your claims for the sum, and unless there was something inherently wrong with the agreement to settle in and of itself, the court is disinclined to set aside the well-considered agreement of two individuals.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | about 7 years ago | (#19853367)

Not entirely. For instance, I am suing my landlord over failure to return security deposit. He says it was for professional cleaning of the carpet. Cleaning which occurred after I had the carpets professionally cleaned, paid invoice sent to him, and the carpet was recorded as 'clean' on the moveout inspection.

There are all sorts of other arguments, but the contention is this, that no fees which are nonrefundable can be counted as part of a security deposit. As in, if you want a mandatory cleaning fee, it's specified. Of course if you need to use it to recover costs, you can, but you can't take a $1000 deposit knowing you will never return more than $500, in advance. This is in Washington, btw, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=59.18 .285 [wa.gov] .

Their argument is that the rental contract says "Renter agrees to management cleaning carpets and having these costs deducted from the deposit", and that my agreement trumps the law. Not so, says the law: This [wa.gov] says "(2) No rental agreement may provide that the tenant: (a) Agrees to waive or to forego rights or remedies under this chapter;".

Lest anyone think I'm being an asshole, this was the last straw from a landlord who entered the premises without notice, nor consent, failed to make repairs for a caved in ceiling until a prospective new tenant needed to see the property, etc, etc.

Re:Here in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849983)

Can't sign away your rights? Isn't that the exact logic behind the "social contract" theory, which attempts to justify the coercive relationship between government and individual?

(For the record, I absolutely agree that "signing away one's rights" -- in other words, volunteering oneself to be subject to coercion -- is completely and utterly illogical. The two modes of human interaction, voluntary association and coercion, are mutually exclusive and opposite -- that is, in fact, what gives them meaning.)

Re:Here in the UK (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | about 7 years ago | (#19850033)

But we don't have a Class Action 'ability' to sign away.

Re:Here in the UK (1)

eipgam (945201) | about 7 years ago | (#19852113)

Actually, we have something called a "Group action".

Re:Here in the UK (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | about 7 years ago | (#19852353)

* Googles 'Group Action' *

Where do I sign up?!

Re:Here in the UK (2, Funny)

armanox (826486) | about 7 years ago | (#19850181)

Of course not. UK citizens don't have rights to sign away *ducks and covers*

Ah, license agreements... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849773)

The corporations should be absolutely and completely banned from including any clauses that in any way restrict the rights of consumers, or the ability of those consumers to protect their rights.

If anything, these long lists of clauses and restrictions should be severely curtailed. They don't really serve anything but the corporate bottom line.

T-Mobile has the same clause. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19849777)

I'm one of those wacky people who actually reads the contract before signing. T-Mobile has a similar clause, requiring me to give up the right to both individual and class-action law suits in favor of arbitration.

Unfortunately, this is very common (4, Insightful)

StandardCell (589682) | about 7 years ago | (#19849825)

Many contracts limit your ability to sue in a real court. They exist in everything from vehicle purchase contracts to fitness club contracts. The best thing consumers can do is to read the contracts, know their rights, reject contracts where such provisions can't be removed and tell the salespeople why this isn't acceptable.

Any business that forces a customer into binding arbitration in a contract can't be trusted.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

stinerman (812158) | about 7 years ago | (#19850101)

You already said it in your subject line: "Unfortunately, this is very common".

These contracts are more than "very common", they are the rule. Anything that involves a service will have a one-sided contract like this. As a previous poster said:

And before any wise-ass comes back with "then don't sign it", try living with[out] a cell phone, credit card, phone service, bank account, etc, etc, etc..

You literally have no recourse in most of these cases other than to sue. And, of course, if you don't have the $100 for the overcharges, you don't likely have money for a lawyer to fight the contract you signed. Even if you beat the odds and won, the judge might not refund all legal fees (just what he believes to be reasonable). Therefore, you basically have to take it all in the ass.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 7 years ago | (#19853421)

These contracts are more than "very common", they are the rule. Anything that involves a service will have a one-sided contract like this.

Fortunately, you can't give up your right to sue someone. You can always still sue them. You may not win because of that piece of paper you signed, but even if all their lawyer does is bring in the contract and point out that clause, they will still have to eat the cost of defending themselves, which I guarantee is a LOT more than the cost of binding arbitration. They just put that language in contracts to scare people so they won't try it at all.

In many cases, of course, those clauses aren't worth the paper they're written on. If the company has significantly violated the terms of the agreement on a broad scale, it is unlikely that a judge will let them off the hook based on everyone being bound by an arbitration clause. The sorts of things that trigger most class action suits (the frivolous ones notwithstanding) are generally such extreme examples of corporate malfeasance that no arbitration clause would be considered binding.

For one thing, if it can be shown that the company did not correct the bad practice in a timely manner and continued to sign up people under such a contract with knowledge of the bad practice and the harm it caused, then the company negotiated the contract in bad faith, and thus a contract did not occur, i.e. the binding arbitration clause can be held invalid along with the rest of the contract. For another, at least in the ninth circuit, mandatory arbitration clauses have frequently been held by the courts to be "unconscionable and unenforceable". The one situation where they are often upheld is when they are combined with a choice of law clause that forces the court to consider the contract under the laws of another jurisdiction that does allow such clauses. In other circuits, your mileage may vary considerably.

It's just like liability for negligence. You can sign all the papers you want that say that you won't hold your employer, school, etc. liable for injuries, including in cases of negligence. The reality is that you can still sue and can often still win. The language is there for two reasons: to raise the burden of proof (you would probably need to show a history of negligence or a single case of gross negligence) and to make people without legal training assume that they don't have the right to sue, thus warding off the vast majority of lawsuits before they even reach the desk of a lawyer.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850255)

StandardCell (589682) on Friday July 13, @12:07PM (#19849825)
Many contracts limit your ability to sue in a real court. They exist in everything from vehicle purchase contracts to fitness club contracts. The best thing consumers can do is to read the contracts, know their rights, reject contracts where such provisions can't be removed and tell the salespeople why this isn't acceptable.

Any business that forces a customer into binding arbitration in a contract can't be trusted.


Good luck with that. It is becoming harder and harder to buy goods and services without a binding arbitration agreement. In my area, you cannot buy a car without signing one.

These clauses give a huge advantage to business, and most consumers don't think it is that important. This is why binding arbitration is becoming more and more common.

Business also has far more power to lobby, so until the terrible effects of binding arbitration start becoming well known to the general public, it won't change.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 7 years ago | (#19850827)

Except that limits on being able to sue don't usually get held up. No court would uphold a contract where I can beat you senseless whenever I wanted for $500. Its simply too one sided. So are provisions removing the ability to sue and to use an arbitrator agreeable to the company.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 7 years ago | (#19851625)

Its really difficult to sign away your basic rights. Suing a person or company goes along with one of those basic rights.

"You can't sue us for any reason" should automatically invalidate all of a EULA/contract. Even the cancellation fees and other bullshit.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | about 7 years ago | (#19852469)

The best thing consumers can do is to read the contracts, know their rights, reject contracts where such provisions can't be removed and tell the salespeople why this isn't acceptable.

Oh, give it up. The fact of the matter is that nearly all of us when signing such a contract are rank amateurs with a limited amount of time to make a decision facing professional contact-drafters who have been at it for years. It's vary far from an equal contest. Anyway, the choice is a most likely going to be a different but equally one-sided contact from a competitor.

Re:Unfortunately, this is very common (1)

TemporalBeing (803363) | about 7 years ago | (#19853275)

any contracts limit your ability to sue in a real court. They exist in everything from vehicle purchase contracts to fitness club contracts. The best thing consumers can do is to read the contracts, know their rights, reject contracts where such provisions can't be removed and tell the salespeople why this isn't acceptable.
What about employers? They do this too to their employees. Mine did not have it when I started, but then later added it saying "your continued employment after [insert date] gives your consent to this change". Who knew it was even being considered?! If one couldn't afford to go find a job by that date, then they were forced to accept the terms. Granted, I'm not sure that is legal; but like most other things, they do it any way.

Good news (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 7 years ago | (#19849949)

Is a refreshing change. It's nice to hear a story where justice is upheld rather than hearing more about how screwed I am.

Class action suits (1)

Jaaay (1124197) | about 7 years ago | (#19849957)

don't really punish bad behaviour too often. A lot of the ones that end up in the news have really pathetic reimbursements that the "victims" need to be bothered to apply for. I mean what's the point of these things if you still make many more millions and then need to give a tiny iota back or some free song downloads to the few principled citizens who have the time to get it. They should modify the laws so that any unclaimed money still needs to be paid as a fine.

Common Practice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19850087)

I have a friend who works for a company whose sole purpose is to find cases of over charging in the telcom industry.

    The way that he explained it to me is that a client company would present the bill and the the amount owed to his company who understood the charges and then would the dispute the bogus fees (things like charging for lines that did not exist). The telcomms would then respond with, oh our mistake.

    At the end of the day, friend's company would return 10% of the original amount paid to the client company and keep the rest. I was told that this is just standard practice. I guess this is easier to do when you are dealing with $10M/month phone bills and the creation of an internal audit department does not justify the expense.

"Let the Market Decide!" (2, Interesting)

Evilest Doer (969227) | about 7 years ago | (#19851315)

Actions like this show that the Great Holy Infallible Markets (TM) usually decide that eliminating your rights and stepping all over you generate the most profits. Especially if they can collude and set "industry standard" business practices. In fact, the few consumer protection laws that do exist are one of the few reasons that we really aren't a Corporate Dictatorship yet.

"Washington State" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19852235)

...is a University in Pullman. If you're talking about the state of Washington, it's called Washington.

Re:"Washington State" (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 7 years ago | (#19853297)


Right, because when one utters the word 'Washington' NO ONE EVER thinks of this nation's capital. Ever. Just doesn't happen. Nothing to see here, move along...

Re:"Washington State" (1)

gangien (151940) | about 7 years ago | (#19853835)

As a person who lives in Washington State, shut up :P. More than half the time when I say Washington to someone not from the Northwest they think Washington DC.

and besides it's Washington State University

Re:"Washington State" (1)

Mr2001 (90979) | about 7 years ago | (#19855491)

A university in Pullman... oh, you mean Wazzu? No one just calls it "Washington State".
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  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
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