For about a year now I have been using Comcast and getting crappy service. I pay for fast service, but the techs who come out and the “customer service” reps don’t know why nothing works at my house. Comcast thus gets to sell crappy service for full price and my option is to go with ATT&T who offers even crappier service. So, being a lawyer, of course I am open to suing them for not delivering what they promise. Sounds like a plan, right?

Not so fast. Contained in almost all contracts these days are arbitration clauses which, by accepting said service, means you have agreed to not go to court and sue them, and in particular, have agreed to “arbitrate”. Arbitration is a process where private judges make decisions out of court during less formal proceedings, with virtually no oversight and virtually no recourse to the court. The “arbitrator” can literally get the law wrong and it does not matter. A court will uphold the decision. Often the consumer must pay out of pocket fees that make it impossible. AAA, for example, will pay the arbitration fees if your income is less than 300% of poverty level. That means the people most likely to sue, middle class, have to pay. Brilliant.

But it gets better. Class action lawyers (of which I am NOT one of) protect the public by preventing giant companies from stealing small amounts of money from large amounts of people. Comcast can offer crappy service and get away with it, because I have waived my right to file a class action lawsuit, or even arbitrate a class-claim.

You can thank both the California Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court for these decisions(see Sanchez v. Valencia Holding LLC and AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740 (2011) that essentially cut off the rights of consumers by using contracts they know quite well no one reads against companies who have virtually no competition.