Washington Upholds ATT Customer's Right To Class Action

In another step towards the impending demise of mandatory binding arbitration, a customer’s right to file a class-action lawsuit against AT&T Wireless was upheld by Washington Supreme Court yesterday.

The court ruled the class-action waiver clause, included in every single cellphone contract and many other types of contracts, was “unconscionable,” as it denied consumers basic protections. Here’s the kill quote from the Opinion: “Courts will not be easily deceived by attempts to unilaterally strip away consumer protections and remedies by efforts to cloak the waiver of important rights under an arbitration clause.”

Read full Supreme Court Ruling here.

Court says AT&T can’t force arbitration [Seattle Post-Intelligencer] (Thanks to Mark!) (Photo: Todd Kravos)


Edit Your Comment

  1. snoop-blog says:

    That just made my day!

  2. Mfalconieri says:

    AT&T needs to go away for a while again. They came out too fast. Need to get back to shelter and try again. They suck.

  3. BoomerFive says:

    W00000000T! That rocks!

  4. toddkravos says:

    It’s about darned time, Supreme Court!

  5. agnamus says:

    I don’t see how this is a victory for the consumer. In the event that ATT is sued via class-action in WA, the consumers will get $10 DSL (hahaha I mean they can fight tooth and nail for it like the status quo) or coupons while the lawyers get millions in fees. Yawn.

    • Parapraxis says:


      have you even been following the history of arbitration in the consumerist?

      • agnamus says:

        @Parapraxis: I know that arbitration is evil, but class actions aren’t much better. It’s a little like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

        • mythago says:

          @agnamus: Gee, if class actions are so awful, why are evil corporations hell-bent on shutting them down?

          The whole point of class-action lawsuits is to go after wrongdoers who hurt a whole lot of people just a little bit. If a company steals $5 from you, it’s not worth your time to sue them on your own; the filing fees alone cost more than that. If a company does that to enough people – theft on the volume plan – then a class-action lawsuit means they have far less chance of getting away with it.

          The lawyers get a lot of money because they work on commission.

    • snowburnt says:

      @agnamus: you read “King of Torts” too?

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @agnamus: Great attitude there, cowboy. So the alternative is to be a slave? Have a fun life with that approach, OK?

  6. ILoveVermont says:

    Binding arbitration is just another term for “Bloodsucking vampires”.

    P.S. Ummmm, that should be “lonely”, not “lonlely”, in the accompanying pic.

  7. YasashikuAstypalaea says:

    …is that while the court found that the contract couldn’t waive
    essential protections, it *could* issues resolving those protections to
    be resolved via arbitration.

    Just before the “kill quote”:

    We emphasize that these provisions have nothing to do with
    arbitration. Arbitrators supervise class actions, conduct open hearings,
    apply appropriate statutes of limitations, and award compensatory and
    punitive damages, as well as attorney fees, where appropriate.

    This is a Good Thing by all means, but we still need Congress to do
    their thing.

  8. stacye says:

    Photoshop has a spell checker. Edit > Check Spelling…

  9. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I can I request a TIE Fighter be photoshopped into that picture? It ought to be a requirement for anything with the AT&T logo IMHO.

    • PatrickIs2Smart says:

      @Ben Popken: This suit appears to be regarding the AT&T Residential Long Distance services, not AT&T Wireless.

  10. GMFish says:

    Best line from the opinion:

    AT&T seems aghast that it may have to comply with the laws of 50 different states, but that is precisely what every other company that competes in a free, competitive, and open market must do.

  11. sunnypies says:

    so what does all this mean?

  12. SpdRacer says:

    Anybody here realize that AT&T is a major corporate sponsor of both parties conventions, talk about hedging your bets!

  13. Snarkysnake says:

    NOTICEABLY absent from Obama’s promise to stick up for the little guy was a position on ending the unfair,abusive system of binding arbitration. Once designed to settle disputes between warring businesses,the arbitration has morphed into a way to cheat consumers of their day in court.If any of you Consumerist readers ever get to ask a real,unscripted question of either candidate,why not make it about the abusive arbitration system and its undermining of a basic constitutional right ?

  14. randombob says:

    Look guy, you’re missing the point

    Class-Actions may not be a wonderful thing, but that’s not really what’s key here: the issue is that the ruling effectively nullifies Binding Arbitration agreements. You’re free to seek remedy, even in the form of a Class-Action.

    Maybe more later. This sets a precedent; that being that B.A. is a ridiculous cop-out that doesn’t really stand up in court.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      Two words: Fuckin A!

      @randombob: Well said my friend, arbitration is starting to go down in flames and I am loving every minute of it!

      Power to the people!

  15. Think up every variation of WOOHOO style celebration cries that you can and then triple it. That is how awesome this is!

  16. Pro-Pain says:

    This is great news. I despise AT&T. I wish they’d go away again. Far away.

  17. Nick_Bentley says:

    Over 90 percent of all arbitration’s are in favor of the company that contracts them from what I read. Also there was one arbiter who decided a big medical claim against a company that contracted them, and he was never asked to work again. Of course they have to decide for the company that gave them the business. I think they put that in just to scare away most people into not taking them to court in the first place. There really should be federal guidelines about this. You cannot buy a car in the U.S. without signing away your right to sue them, even if it’s their fault. Have to agree to arbitration or they won’t sell you a car. I heard the big auto makers require their dealers to do that as a condition of selling their vehicles.

  18. cubejockey says:

    Hey! Thats the Ohio Bell/Ameritech/AT&T building in downtown Cleveland!