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July 25, 2012 / Admin

Are Consumer Class Actions In Danger of Becoming Obsolete?: Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on the Pivotal Issue of Contractual Class Action Bans

On November 9th the business-friendly Roberts Court heard oral argument on the pivotal issue of whether the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts a state court’s ability to strike down a contractual class action ban. If the Court ultimately rules in AT&T’s favor, corporations will have the right to contractually prohibit consumers from pursuing class action relief. Meaning that, as confounding as it may sound, the next time you are presented with pages of endless fine print in connection with a purchase or service agreement, you could be unwittingly signing away certain legal rights, and be doing so as part of a perfectly legal transaction.

The case at issue, Concepcion v. AT&T Mobility, LLC was initially brought as a straightforward class action claim by a husband and wife who signed a contract with AT&T for wireless service under the guise that the contract would include two “free” cell phones, which in reality came with a litany of undisclosed service charges amounting to roughly $30. However, the seemingly simple case took on new and far more significant meaning when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California declined to dismiss the case on the grounds proffered by AT&T- that the Concepcions, in signing a fine print laden contract for their wireless service, had agreed to pursue arbitration and forego class action litigation in the event of a legal dispute.

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