Round 33: Comcast vs The American Arbitration Association

Tier 1 voting is over (we’ll get a nice standings chart up soon). Now it’s time for things to get more intense, now we’ll have some real competition. This is Round 33 in our Worst Company in America contest, Comcast vs The American Arbitration Association.

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This is a post in our Worst Company In America 2008 series. The companies nominated for this honor were chosen by you, the readers. Keep track of all the goings on at consumerist.com/tag/worst-company-in-america

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  1. Truvill says:

    can’t you guys have the company’s description?

  2. SlappySquirrel says:

    Come on, people. Comcast CAN NOT get knocked out in the second round of voting.

    Is the AAA even a company?

  3. highmodulus says:

    Comcast is no worse then DirectTV or Verizon (all equally evil), but AAA actively subverts your justice and hard earned constitutional rights to the legal system and replaced their with sham courts that almost always side with their monetary masters.

    Probably going to take a really evil company (maybe the RIAA unless they were retired from the competition) to knock of the AAA.

  4. Cache22 says:

    This is a tough one, but the American Arbitration Association is used by other companies, so by itself as an entity it isn’t fully to blame. As a matter of fact, there is mention of the American Arbitration Association under Comcast’s own terms of service, I’ll have to lean to Comcast on this one, because in my mind a vote for Comcast includes their use of arbitration.

  5. fluiddruid says:

    Wow. Easy out for one of these two, both of which could easily have taken the whole race.

  6. nequam says:

    @highmodulus: What do you mean by monetary masters? Do you realize that the arbitrators’ fees are shared by the parties? Do you also realize that the parties cooperate in choosing the arbitrator?

    As I’ve said before, blaming the AAA for misuse of consumer arbitration is like blaming the movie theater for showing a movie with a tired plot. The AAA is a forum, not a purveyor.

  7. PunditGuy says:

    These need to include nominating information if they’re going to be of any use at all.

  8. Ghede says:

    American Arbitration Association. Hands down. Sure comcast uses the AAA, but a vote for comcast is not a vote against arbitration as much as actually voting for the arbitration firm.

  9. Shadowman615 says:

    Yawn. Is this series ever going to die?

    ;)

  10. picantel says:

    Gotta be the AAA. Comcast blows for sure but the AAA is taking away your rights and giving corporate america an easy win no matter what the proof.

  11. courtarro says:

    Aren’t you pitting two top-seeded teams against each other too soon?

  12. projoe1979 says:

    Isn’t this technically the 33rd match up or contest? The first round would be the 32 match ups of the 64 competitors. The 2nd round would see 16 contests made up of the winners of the previous round. So on and so on….

  13. alstein says:

    Yeah, this might just be #1 vs #2 right here.

  14. Buran says:

    @SlappySquirrel: I don’t care about a cable company when we’re talking about an association that thrives on making sure people lose their legal right to the courts.

  15. HYDRAULICMONSTER says:

    I’ve got to say that it was a tough choice, but I’ll have to vote for the AAA.
    While Comcast is definably a bad company, it’s mostly just incompetent . The AAA is actively evil.

  16. Alex Chasick says:

    Binding arbitration is what made me go into consumer law, and I still voted for Comcast. AAA isn’t the problem, the companies who use binding arbitration clauses and the courts who uphold them are. The AAA actually attempted to make the arbitration process fairer a decade ago when they instituted their Consumer Due Process Protocol, which requires that contracts give clear and adequate notice of the arbitration provisions contained therein, requires that customers retain the right to use small claims courts for claims within their jurisdictions, requires a reasonably convenient location for a hearing, and reasonable costs based on the size and nature of the claim–in cases where the damages would be small compared to the fee, the business may be required to subsidize the arbitration process. AAA also states that they may refuse to arbitrate any dispute where the contract “substantially and materially deviates from the minimum due process standards” outlined in the AAA’s protocol. As the largest arbitration group, it’s debatable whether they actually refuse to arbitrate in those situations, but as long as Congress leaves the Federal Arbitration Act intact and as long as the courts keep talking about a “liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements,” businesses, like Comcast, will use them because they’re totally biased in favor of the corporation. I would have kept voting for AAA as a symbolic vote against arbitration, but Comcast is just too terrible of a company to get out this early.

  17. javi0084 says:

    Why is it taking so long to choose the Worst of America?

  18. Lambasted says:

    @courtarro: Yeah, I am rather surprised to see these two matched against each other so soon. I wouldn’t expect to see a match-up like this until the Final Four.

    @Shadowman615: Maybe next year they should limit entrants to only the worst of the worst so voting doesn’t stretch on forever. I mean including companies like Hallmark and Toyota is just a waste of time when looking for the WORST company in America.

  19. Bladefist says:

    @Buran: Arbitration isn’t always unfair. Millions of cases go through fairly, and you only hear about the ones that “dont.” Course anyone who goes to arbitration thinks they are right. I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it.

    As far as signing off your rights, thats called reading the fine print.

  20. Bladefist says:

    @Buran: Sometimes, the corporation is right.

  21. Alex Chasick says:

    @Lambasted: You understand we’re talking about the Hallmark that sold bad meat to schoolchildren, and not the Hallmark that sold bad greeting cards to pretty much everybody, right?

  22. Anjow says:

    It’s a shame to see this match happen so soon. It may make the loser think that they’re an okay company after all.

  23. Lambasted says:

    @Bladefist: Reading the fine print is fine but in many industries arbitration is the norm and almost impossible to avoid. Most, if not all, moving/shipping contracts I’ve seen have arbitration clauses included. I would love to avoid them but I can’t move my household full of furniture myself. And I certainly cannot ship it overseas without hiring their services as I do not have my own personal use of a cargo ship.

    Thus, there is a built in “take it or leave it” option in theory but not in reality in many cases.

  24. quirkyrachel says:

    Seriously! Come on guys! Comcast must have more article on Consumerist than any other company! (And I’m cheering because my parents finally got so fed up, that they switched away from Comcast, too. I only lasted 1 year…)

  25. Lambasted says:

    @Alex Chasick: Uh-oh. I think I might have seen the name Hallmark and just assumed it was the card company and gave them a pass. Well, we all know what happens when you assume. LOL!

    I believe my soul will rot in hell for giving a pass to a company that made little children double-over and cry. Oh, those poor children! Oh, the inhumanity!

  26. DomZ says:

    Why is this even a close race? Where are my Comcast customers at?

  27. Alex Chasick says:
  28. mmcnary says:

    @Alex Chasick: If arbitration is so fair, then why are 90+% of disputes won by the corporations over consumers?

  29. ivanthemute says:

    @DomZ: They’re at home waiting on their techs (who are doing donuts in the parking lot) or on the phone trying to get their services back up. Don’t worry, when their internet is back up, they’ll be able to vote.

  30. dotyoureyes says:

    AAA for the win! They do far more to reduce the rights of consumers across the country.

    At least you have options if you don’t want to go with Comcast.

    The AAA is mandatory for just about any contract you sign, and they’re designed to make you lose.

  31. warf0x0r says:

    These two should be finalists, not paired against each other…

    Lame

  32. Lambasted says:

    @DomZ: Comcast definitely got my vote. An arbitration clause might affect me once in a blue moon, but Comcast affects my life on a daily basis. Like when I look at my TV and the picture is blotchy.

    Or I try to download a torrent and Comcast won’t let me.

    Or when I have to worry about Comcast shutting off my service or messing with my cable lines when they think I have been downloading too much. I finally got hip to their wicked game when I noticed that I would lose my network connection generally only after I had been downloading for a while. And sometimes, my TV picture would degrade when I was downloading, seemingly as if Comcast was messing with my cable lines or something.

    Or when they forced me to pay extra for a digital package because they kept taking channels off of basic.

    Or when they moved the NFL Network channel to a premium package.

    Comcast is just evil. No two ways about it. I will never use them again.

  33. highmodulus says:

    You can easily leave Comcast, but the horribly broken and biased mandatory arbitration system is forced on you in various contracts of adhesion.

    Heck, Comcast even seems to sort of care about you now- they’re still stunningly incompetent but the rampant competition for tv and internet service give consumers choice and options, all things the AAA works hard to deny you and take your rights as a defrauded consumer away.

    Vote AAA and send a message.

  34. rmz says:

    What an upset!

    And everyone (including myself) was certain that Comcast was going to go all the way. :(

  35. Lambasted says:

    @Alex Chasick: I saw that. I just noticed that they spell their name with a “t” not a “k”. I don’t know how I overlooked that during voting.

    Those mugshots are funny. They’ve got, “I made children cry” written all over them.

  36. Alex Chasick says:

    @mmcnary: Actually, it’s more like 98% of the time, and you obviously need to reread my comment.

  37. Juggernaut says:

    I’m involved in a case (not personally)right now with AAA. Not only do I have an ominous feeling about how this is going to turn out but they’ve billed us about 8k while we’re waiting to hear how we’re going to get fucked!

  38. Lambasted says:

    @highmodulus: Funny you should mention contracts of adhesion. I was once going to use that as an argument as to the illegality of mandatory arbitration clauses in transit industry contracts.

    But still, I still maintain that Comcast affects my life more.

    Besides, I dare say if our courts weren’t clogged with so many frivolous lawsuits perhaps arbitration wouldn’t have taken such a firm hold in our legal system. The courts cannot handle hearing all of the cases. Just too many of them. At least arbitration provides some measure of potential redress rather than having a case sit for years and years in a court backlog.

  39. Angryrider says:

    Arbitration. Evil companies use it as a tool to screw you over once more. Destroy the tool, and let our legal system be the channel to fight horrible corporations.

  40. Jay Slatkin says:

    Vote Comcast!!!!!

  41. Bmaz23 says:

    If Comcast does not win then the entire fun of this whole contest has been wiped out for me. The AAA does not directly impact me and them winning this whole thing will not adversly impact them in any way at all. I may be naieve but I think if Comcast goes all the way more good can come out of this contest.

  42. HeartBurnKid says:

    As much as I hate the AAA, in the end, they’re not directly screwing us; they’re merely acting as an enabler for other companies to screw us. Including Comcast. So they get this round.

  43. highmodulus says:

    @Lambasted: I respectfully disagree. They’re plenty of television providers and internet providers- but the incredibly broken arbitration system shilled by the AAA and defended from ANY meaningful reform by the AAA is stuck on you if you use a credit card, or most any other service from a Fortune 500 company.

    Don’t like Comcast, don’t use them. Get a dish then. Get DSL. See if they are any better. Don’t want mandatory arbitration where you have a 95% of losing- well too bad.

    If AAA isn’t the worst company– then nobody is the worst. Comcast isn’t stealing your basic rights away, heck they even let you opt out of arbitration.

    Comcast isn’t any worse then the other telco’s, dish or any other semi-monopoly; Verizon et al is equally about hosing you with ETFs, sleazy billing and bad installs that burn your house which they then lie about (source of the “Show us your Verizon face” joke).

    But none of them, even uber evil retailer Best Buy, is systematically depriving you of your rights.

    Vote AAA!

  44. Lambasted says:

    @highmodulus: What I am saying is that it is not very often (actually never) that I have needed to avail myself of arbitration or legal services against a company.

    Maybe I am just lucky like that but I haven’t sued anyone lately nor have I been in a situation where I needed to. I’ve had issues with companies before, but as one of my law professors said, (or was it Judge Judy), “Not every offense is an actionable one, be it from a legal, personal, or financial standpoint.”

    Besides, why blame AAA for utilizing the legal leeway granted to them by our beloved Congress? Most industries fall under federal jurisdiction. It’s Congress that allows arbitration to control in the first place. I think blame would be better placed at the feet of our “what’s in it for me not you” Congress.

    Thus, arbitration doesn’t affect my life like Comcast does. I cannot get DirectTV because I don’t have enough sky exposure. Until I move, I am stuck with Comcast. Also, I tried DSL internet and it sucks. It was worse than Comcast. It consistently knocked out my dial tone. At one point I was calling Verizon almost on a monthly basis. They would come out tweak something to get it working and a couple of weeks later it was out again. I got sick of not being able to use my phone and internet so I switch to Comcast. Thus, options are great in theory but in reality, not always so good.

  45. Buran says:

    @Bladefist: Yeah, you just try getting important services like phone service or credit or a loan without signing away your rights.

  46. Bladefist says:

    @Buran: I still dont think its that bad. It keeps a lot of this nonsense out of our courts, so they can deal w/ the real cases.

    Also I think a vast majority of the AAA cases end fairly. And I don’t think they are biased with the company. Also a lot of times the cases deal with businesses vs businesses. What then?

    Not saying it hasn’t ever happened.

  47. Finally, a decent match up.

  48. maztec says:

    @nequam: Wow, you’re brain washed.

  49. NinjaMarion says:

    @PunditGuy: Definitely agreed. Way too annoying to have to search back to the first round posts for all the remaining rounds just o find out what the hell the companies did wrong to get here.

  50. cerbie says:

    AAA up by 5 votes, and the CSS is still borked. Come on, AAA…

  51. DJWeezy says:

    Why go back to the crappy polls?

  52. Charred says:

    AAA all the way.

  53. In my experience, Comcast employees don’t even TRY to do their jobs. It’s like they have no motivation.

    I’ve stayed on the phone for hours being transfered from person to person…

    Comcast you get my vote.

  54. AceKicker says:

    Still a dead heat, but AAA is still behind 93 points. Going to be tough to make that up this late in the race.

  55. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Descriptions from the first round of voting:

    The American Arbitration Association is the main supplier of kangaroo courts to companies who want to deprive consumers of most of their rights in the event of a legal dispute. Most contracts you sign with companies these days contain a mandatory arbitration clause.

    [Comcast] kills file sharing.

  56. Hamm Beerger says:

    @nequam: I think it’s possible that you could be more wrong, but you’d really have to work at it.

  57. kyle4 says:

    I voted Comcast, but I had to do it eight times before it went through. Damn.

  58. I must admit I know next to nothing about the AAA. But to those saying you can just cancel your service with Comcast…Comcast has a monopoly on lots of areas/cities. Somebody find me cable internet (not DSL) in the Houston area and I’ll bake you a cake.

  59. SadhviSalamander says:

    I voted for Comcast because I am currently trying to get the $85.76
    they stole from me. Here’s my story: I used to pay the Comcast bill
    online with my credit card when I lived with my old roommate. The
    account was in his name, and I would pay the bill every month,
    sometimes online with my credit card. I never signed up for auto-
    pay. After my roommate and I moved into different homes, I called
    Comcast and they assured me I would not be responsible for paying
    this bill since it is not in my name and I have no control of it.

    My old roommate moved to a new house, and set up a new account with
    comcast at his new home. I moved to a new house and set up Speakeasy
    (Comcast is not available in my neighborhood). My old roommate was
    charged a service fee for setting up a new account with Comcast. He
    missed a few monthly payments, and guess who’s credit card was
    charged for his bill when he didn’t pay? Mine. How did Comcast
    access my credit card information? Good question. I asked Comcast
    why they charged my card, and they said that was the card they had on
    file for that account, even though this was technically a new account
    (which is why Comcast billed a new account set up fee).

    I filed a fraudulent charge with my bank, WaMu, and WaMu denied my
    claim saying that I had paid this bill before, so I had authorized
    them to charge my account because the services were not disabled.
    Um… what? I don’t live at the new account’s address, and I never
    have, nor had I ever authorized them to automatically charge my
    card. Good job, WaMu… way to protect me from fraud.

    The sad part is everyone I have spoken to at both WaMu and Comcast
    are sympathetic to my situation, yet no one can refund my money. I
    don’t want sympathy… I was my stinkin’ money back!

    - Stacey