In 2011, when AT&T convinced the Supreme Court that the inclusion of a mandatory binding arbitration clause buried deep in a contract effectively precludes customers from filing a class, it was immediately obvious that more and more companies would begin including such clauses in their terms of service. The latest company is eBay, which has given users until Nov. 9 to opt out — in writing — of the clause.
Like many other arbitration clauses, eBay’s reads:
YOU AND EBAY AGREE THAT EACH OF US MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS AND NOT AS PART OF ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION OR PROCEEDING. UNLESS BOTH YOU AND EBAY AGREE OTHERWISE, THE ARBITRATOR MAY NOT CONSOLIDATE OR JOIN MORE THAN ONE PERSON’S OR PARTY’S CLAIMS, AND MAY NOT OTHERWISE PRESIDE OVER ANY FORM OF A CONSOLIDATED, REPRESENTATIVE, OR CLASS PROCEEDING. ALSO, THE ARBITRATOR MAY AWARD RELIEF (INCLUDING MONETARY, INJUNCTIVE, AND DECLARATORY RELIEF) ONLY IN FAVOR OF THE INDIVIDUAL PARTY SEEKING RELIEF AND ONLY TO THE EXTENT NECESSARY TO PROVIDE RELIEF NECESSITATED BY THAT PARTY’S INDIVIDUAL CLAIM(S). ANY RELIEF AWARDED CANNOT AFFECT OTHER EBAY USERS.
But at least eBay is allowing this slender window for users to opt out:
You can choose to reject this Agreement to Arbitrate (“opt-out”) by mailing us a written opt-out notice (“Opt-Out Notice”). For new eBay users, the Opt-Out Notice must be postmarked no later than 30 days after the date you accept the User Agreement for the first time. If you are already a current eBay user and previously accepted the User Agreement prior to the introduction of this Agreement to Arbitrate, the Opt-Out Notice must be postmarked no later than November 9, 2012 . You must mail the Opt-Out Notice to eBay Inc., c/o National Registered Agents, Inc., 2778 W. Shady Bend Lane, Lehi, UT 84043.
The Opt-Out Notice must state that you do not agree to this Agreement to Arbitrate and must include your name, address, and the user ID(s) and email address(es) associated with the eBay account(s) to which the opt-out applies. You must sign the Opt-Out Notice for it to be effective. This procedure is the only way you can opt-out of the Agreement to Arbitrate. If you opt-out of the Agreement to Arbitrate, all other parts of the User Agreement and its Legal Disputes Section will continue to apply to you. Opting out of this Agreement to Arbitrate has no effect on any previous, other, or future arbitration agreements that you may have with us.
Even if you never envision suing eBay, we recommend all eBay users opt out of the arbitration agreement. For all the negative press that class-action lawsuits receive, they are a valuable tool for consumers to use when a company’s policies affect a large group of people. We can’t allow businesses to effectively eradicate class-action suits with the simple inclusion of a few sentences of legalese.
Of course, AT&T says that mandatory binding arbitration is really in the best interest of consumers. And the folks at the Death Star would never try to steer us wrong, would they?
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!