How do I opt out of the arbitration clause for AT&T U-verse?
June 11, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

My new AT&T U-verse contract has a forced arbitration clause but no information about opting out. Does that mean that I can't?

I'm in the process of switching over from Comcast as my internet provider to AT&T U-verse. Comcast tried this same crap on me a year or two ago, but they at least had the decency to put information for opting out into the contract. I tried to find out how to go about opting out for AT&T U-verse, but all I can find using Google is information about how to opt out of other companies' arbitration clauses or about the Supreme Court case that makes all this crap legal. I called AT&T customer service and scared the piss out of some poor customer service rep who forwarded me to an unnamed department that was closed for the day.

I guess my next step is to wait until business hours tomorrow and repeat the process. But I was hoping that somebody else out there had already tried this and could tell me what needs to be done or if it's even possible.
posted by ErWenn to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The way of opting out of a forced arbitration clause is not to sign the contract. You don't get to negotiate the terms. Some companies offer an opt-out, but this is a customer service and PR move, not a legally-required one as far as I can tell. If you don't want to be forced to arbitrate, pick a different ISP.

Consumerist has an article.
posted by valkyryn at 4:48 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mandatory arbitration, well, means you can't opt out. If that's the case here, you either need to sign or not use this vendor.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:00 PM on June 11, 2012

While it never got to the point that I had to test it, I went to HR Block a few times and when I got to that page of their agreement with the arbitration mumbo jumbo, I would either not sign it, or just write in something like "NOPE" instead of my name.

Is this a physical document? Is that page separate? Can you just not include it when returning it?

I am definitely not a lawyer, and I am doubtful my strategy would hold up well against AT&T's legal team, but that is what I have done in the past.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 5:48 PM on June 11, 2012

Response by poster: I guess what I'm really asking is whether AT&T specifically allows for opting out of the arbitration and if anyone had any success finding out what that would entail.

This_Will_Be_Good: That wouldn't work here. This is one of those "by activating the service you are agreeing to this contract" things, so I can't just cross out that part of the contract.
posted by ErWenn at 5:51 PM on June 11, 2012

I just read through the AT&T agreement linked to at the end of the Consumerist article mentioned above (though it may not be the same as what you have). One thing I noticed is that at least you can choose to bring a dispute to either arbitration or small claims court. I have heard a few stories (mostly on Consumerist) of people having success against big companies through small claims court.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 5:54 PM on June 11, 2012

There is no reason for AT&T to allow you to opt out, given that mandatory arbitration clauses have been broadly accepted by consumers. You might argue that consumers are pathetic sheep, but there is no longer a legal reason to allow an out.

What's implicit in the Consumerist article is that prior to the Supreme Court decision, companies were not permitted to force consumers into arbitration. Instead, they added the 30-day opt out period, so the arbitration became "voluntary."
posted by wnissen at 8:04 PM on June 11, 2012

No. AT&T just won a big Supreme Court lawsuit regarding their arb agreements last year. Welcome to their victory celebration, and the age of widespread forced arbitration.

AT&T v. Concepcion [wiki]
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:07 PM on June 11, 2012

AT&T v. Concepcion = supreme court says you can't opt out or effectively challenge corporate wrongdoing by joining in a consumer class action.

posted by BrooksCooper at 9:55 PM on June 11, 2012

Response by poster: I get it. I know they don't have to give me an opt-out option. But Comcast doesn't have to give me one either and they did. I was just hoping that they might give me that option if I dug around in the right places.

Update: I called customer service and completely baffled them, so they forwarded me to retention. At retention, they were confused and somewhat intrigued, but since I hadn't yet activated the service, they forwarded me to billing and sales. The person there was beyond confused and eventually forwarded me back to retention. Again, I got someone who didn't know the answer and seemed determined to find one. Eventually he tracked down his managers and asked them. He came back on the line and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Him: Good news!
Me: Yes?
Him: I talked to my managers, and they said that there's no way to opt out of the arbitration clause.
Me: In what universe is this good news?
Him: It's good news because I was able to find an answer!

Despite this, I kinda liked the guy.

I almost stuck with AT&T anyway (at least there's still small claims court, right?), but this, combined with the absurdly slow speeds, the surprisingly large amount of downtime, and the annoying-as-fuck automated menu on the customer support phone line made us decide to cancel U-Verse and go back to Comcast. I never thought that Comcast would ever have a moral high-ground on anything. (Or at least a moral less-low-ground.)

Thanks for everyone's help.
posted by ErWenn at 5:40 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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