SUPREME COURT & BIG BUSINESS CRUSH CONSUMER RIGHTS
Are consumer class actions banned by the US Supreme Court ruling in Concepcion? Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article detailing how the Concepcion ruling is affecting consumers all over the US.
If it seems easier lately for companies to add small fees on your bills and harder for you to get your money back, that’s because it is.
A Supreme Court decision that was denounced as a “crushing blow to consumers” when it was announced in April has become exactly that, according to lawyers who argue on behalf of alleged victims of corporate cheating. The decision, which upheld corporations’ right to enforce fine-print contact language that compels consumers to waive their right to file lawsuits, is being used to squelch legal cases across the country, they say.
“Defendants are trying to steamroll us out of court with this. We’re getting completely shut down,” said David DiSabato, who specializes in consumer law in New Jersey. “… The ruling opens the door for companies to pickpocket $10 at a time from millions of consumers.
As an example, DiSabato told the story of client John Considine of Rutherford, N.J., who found several phantom $10 charges on his Verizon cell phone bill from firms offering ring tones, horoscopes and other services he didn’t want. In one case, he couldn’t even find out the identity of the company levying the charge. Working with DiSabato, Considine learned that cramming is a common problem, and decided to file a class action lawsuit to get his money back and help others — many who might not even realize they’d been victims.
But Considine ran right into a brick wall. Only days after the Supreme Court arbitration ruling, Verizon filed a motion to dismiss his case and to compel arbitration. If Verizon prevails, as expected, Considine will never have a day in court, will never be able to discover how many other consumers were hit by the same charges and may never even find out the name of the phantom company. He certainly won’t be able to find legal representation for a fight to recover $10 fees, DiSabato said.
“(The Supreme Court decision) gave the telecom companies a license to commit petty theft without ever having to face the consequences,” said DiSabato. “The telecom companies get rich by committing theft against consumers on a massive scale, and (the decision) deprives consumers of any meaningful ability to fight back.”
After high court ruling, firms divide and conquer in consumer cases.