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T-Mobile loses appeal, cannot enforce arbitration clause

I’ve never made any mistake about my contempt for mandatory arbitration clauses in cell phone contracts. There’s no secret why companies prefer them: They win 98 percent of decisions. So if you’ve been wronged by your cell phone company, you are not entitled to a trial by a jury of your peers — according to them. Even if thousands of other people were wronged in the same fashion. It’s monkey court for the lot of you. But maybe not for much longer. Following the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Cingular’s arbitration clause was unenforceable (linked above), they now say that T-Mobile’s is not enforceable under Washington state law.

The ruling, by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal, follows others by U.S. courts that found that some arbitration clauses go too far in protecting companies from consumer claims of unfair practices, said Seattle attorney Daniel Johnson, who represents the plaintiffs.

Johnson sums up the situation perfectly: “There is a limit to what you can require consumers to give up in terms of protecting their rights.”

T-Mo tried to argue that the Federal Arbitration Act, which they use to back up their mandatory arbitration clauses, pre-empts state law. The judges threw out that claim, too.

It might not seem like much, but it’s a victory for consumers nonetheless. I never really understood how they got away with taking our Constitutional right to a trial by jury in the first place.

[Reuters]