In the United States, two senators introduced a Bill to prohibit wireless companies from having clauses in contracts that prohibit consumers from suing the companies because of hidden fees or other contract disputes. Senators Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Al Franken (Minnesota) introduced the measure, which would ban the common practice of putting clauses in wireless phone and data contracts that require consumers to use binding arbitration in the case of a dispute. The proposed legislation is in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April that an AT&T unit could enforce a provision in its customer contracts requiring individual arbitration and preventing the pooling together of claims into a class-action lawsuit or class-wide arbitration (see here). “This bill makes sure that Minnesotans have the ability to hold their mobile service providers accountable if they are cheated. It also ensures that any dispute resolved through arbitration is truly voluntary, and that consumers are not being forced into it,” Senator Al Franken said in a statement. Read more here (Reuters).
The Bill aims to amend title 9 of the United States Code to prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts for mobile service and is known as the ‘‘Consumer Mobile Fairness Act of 2011’’. As we can read in the Bill, “disputes involving small amounts in controversy are well-suited for class litigation, as class litigation allows a more efficient process than numerous similar individual actions, distributes the costs of litigation across a large pool of plaintiffs, and may present a stronger incentive for a defendant to cease or change harmful behavior. Many contracts for mobile services contain clauses that require aggrieved consumers to waive their right to litigate as an individual or class and instead submit to binding arbitration of any future dispute”.
The Bill is available here.