One of the leading internet providers in the United States, AT&T® recently stated that their contracts do not include any “forced arbitration” clauses. However, reports indicate that customers of the telecom company will still have to agree to these clauses if they want to acquire a TV or internet service.
In a letter to the US senators, AT&T® Executive VP Tim McKone said, “At the outset, no AT&T® customer is ever ‘forced’ to agree to arbitration. Customers accept their contracts with AT&T® freely and voluntarily; no one ‘forces’ them to obtain AT&T® wireless service, DirecTV® programming, or other products and services.”
The telecom giant, AT&T® was actually responding to the concerns that were raised by a few senators a few days ago. The senators argued that the telecom company, AT&T® had used forced arbitration clauses to charge higher prices to their customers, which was a little bit greater than what they had originally advertised.
It is true that the telecom company, AT&T® is not forcing anyone to sign up to their service but in several parts of the country, AT&T® remains the single viable option of wired home internet service. Additionally, AT&T® is also the fastest and best internet provider in many areas of the United States. So, customers have no other option other than AT&T® and the ones who opt for the telecom company’s offerings are indirectly forced to sign the arbitration clauses.
The terms of service for DirecTV® and AT&T® internet require subscribers to “agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims” against the telecom company. This means that trials and class actions against the company will be prohibited but individual cases in small claims courts are usually allowed.
Reports indicate that AT&T® doesn’t provide any way to opt out of the small claims/arbitration provision, which means that the only option available to customers is to not buy any service from the telecom giant. On the other hand, some other popular TV and internet providers in the country like Comcast® do offer a way to their customers for opting out of the provision.
However, the senators are still not convinced with the response from AT&T®. In a recent statement, Sen. Al Franken went on to use the phrase “forced arbitration” for describing the customer contact clause of AT&T®. He added, “There’s nothing ‘friendly’ about AT&T’s take-it-or-leave-it contracts that eliminate consumer choice and take away Americans’ ability to resolve legal disputes with their telecom provider in a court of law. Further, forced arbitration agreements that prohibit customers from banding together as a class deter consumers from seeking justice and allow widespread wrongdoing by powerful corporations to go unchecked.”