Supreme Court Fight For Your Rights

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 3:52pm

Case before U.S. Supreme Court could place dampers on a consumer's right to sue.

Contracts: We sign them for cell phones, credit cards, cable, even employment.

Read the fine print though, and they likely include an arbitration clause in case of dispute.

That's how a $30 cell phone bill made its way to the Supreme Court.

A California couple signed a contract with AT&T Mobility and got a free phone.

The problem was AT&T taxed them $30.

They tried to bring a class action for all those who were improperly charged, but the company fought back, claiming they had agreed to arbitration.

The Supreme Court is now tasked with deciding if federal law that favors arbitration preempts a California law that found the contract illegal.

The court heard from their attorney, who argued a ruling for AT&T would restrict consumers rights, especially those who don't even realize they've been overcharged.

"People have to have some way of leveling playing field when it comes to small scale fraud against wide number of consumers," said attorney Deepak Gupta.

AT&T claims its arbitration process is the fairest way.

"Companies that do do it, like AT&T should be able to provide what is a very strong viable alternative route that basically gets more money to people and less money to lawyers," says attorney Andrew Pinkus.

The court has made some business friendly rulings recently, but didn't appear to be as willing to side with AT&T on this one.

A decision is expected next spring.

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