Average Americans Stripped of their Day in Court, California Consumer Group Says
SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 27, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today's U.S. Supreme Court decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion, invalidating California's protections against unfair provisions in contracts effectively eliminates the right of consumers to join together to fight powerful corporations in court and will lead to enormous abuses of consumers by corporations, Consumer Watchdog, a California non-profit consumer advocacy organization, said today.
Ignoring the plain language of the Federal Arbitration Act, the Supreme Court's decision today says that any time state contract or consumer protection laws interfere with sending a case to arbitration, the state laws are overridden.
Arbitration clauses are in the fine print of contracts for cell phones, cables, credit card and virtually every other product sold in America, yet most consumers never see them until they are the victims of a rip-off, fraud or other thievery. Only then, when they go to court to try to get their money or property back, does the consumer learn that they are barred from bringing a lawsuit by an arbitration clause or from joining together with other aggrieved consumers to fight the defendant. Instead, arbitration provisions ban court cases by one consumer or a group of consumers who are instead required to present their case to someone hired by the company to be a 'judge,' in a complex private process that has few of the protections of the courts. Experience has shown that few lawyers will represent consumers in arbitration cases, a fact that the conservative majority of the Court used in support of its finding against consumers today.
A "Bush vs. Gore" Decision on Consumer Rights
"This decision means it will be open season on consumers," said Harvey Rosenfield, founder of Consumer Watchdog, a California-based advocacy group that has sued AT&T and other large corporations for overcharges. "It slams the courtroom doors shut on Americans who are nickeled and dimed by big corporations. Knowing they can never be held accountable, American corporations will be emboldened to fleece their customers. This is the 'Bush vs. Gore' moment in American consumer law. It just reinforces the belief of many Americans that the government protects only the wealthy and Wall Street."
Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org
SOURCE Consumer Watchdog