ATandT Customers Recruited for Legal Fight Against T-Mobile Merger

 
 
By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-07-25 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A New York law firm opens a fight against the AT&T, T-Mobile merger by getting AT&T customers to use the arbitration clause of their wireless contracts against it-promising a $10,000 payment in the process.

AT&T customers are being sought by the New York law firm of Bursor & Fisher to help fight the merger with T-Mobile. The basis for the fight is loss of competition, possible higher prices and a return to the Ma Bell monopoly.

To accomplish this, the law firm is using the arbitration clause in AT&T customers' contracts to open a huge series of arbitration cases against the company. According to the version of the contract Burton and Fisher is using on its new Fight the Merger Website, the arbitration agreement promises each user a payment of $10,000 if they are unable to reach an arbitrated agreement with AT&T.

The idea is to bring AT&T to the arbitration table by each customer demanding that the merger be stopped, and that the demand be put to arbitration. Since it's unlikely that AT&T would accept the arbitration decision, the company would then have to pay the money. AT&T, as you might expect, is blowing the whole thing off. It says that the arbitration clause can't be used in that way.

But Bursor & Fisher has a pretty good track record in fighting wireless providers in unconventional actions. One of those was a series of actions in California in which Sprint and Verizon were taken to court in class actions regarding early termination fees. The company has won judgments in actions against Sprint 4G phones and T-Mobile early termination fees, as well as in a suit against Facebook for misusing private data and against CitiBank for illegally foreclosing on property owned by deployed troops.

In other words, this is an aggressive law firm that seems to have a habit of winning. It's notable that in most of these cases the companies that ended up on the losing side took virtually the same stand that AT&T has, which is that the cases can't be won.

What's also notable is that Bursor & Fisher isn't charging any attorney's fees to the AT&T customers it's recruiting. Instead, it plans to take those from any settlement, a factor that's clearly spelled out on the Website (unlike the somewhat murky language in most cell phone contracts). Basically, it boils down to this: You'll get the part of any settlement that's left over after the firm collects expenses and its portion of the settlement. This is a pretty normal approach for law firms in class action suits. Whether it's one you like depends on you, but Bursor & Fisher is making no secret of how it's broken out.



 
 
 
 
Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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