Why you can’t sue your wireless carrier in a class action lawsuit

“When AT&T slowed down Matt Spaccarelli’s unlimited data plan on his iPhone, the unemployed truck driver from Simi Valley, Calif. took the country’s largest phone company to court. And as a surprise to all, he won,” Marguerite Reardon reports for CNET.

“But Spaccarelli’s victory rings hollow. In fact, the route he was forced to take — suing AT&T by himself as opposed to employing a more influential and wider ranging class-action lawsuit — illustrates just how difficult it is to change a carrier’s business practice through legal means,” Reardon reports. “Rather than big changes and a return of his unlimited high-speed access, he ended up with $850 and a lot of disappointment.”

Reardon reports, “Thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 2011, which upheld a company’s right to include a clause in contracts prohibiting subscribers from suing the company as part of a class action, Spaccarelli had only two options when fighting AT&T’s new policy: He could enter into an AT&T-funded arbitration program or file his suit in small claims court.”

Read more in the full article here.


  1. He had a third option. To get a job. Maybe then he wouldn’t be such a cry baby about not having “unlimited” everything when he has no money. If He had a job, he’d perhaps have less time to be so american with his gripes.

    1. Yes, they are so plentiful right now. I’m sure he could find one in no time. Typical jerk viewpoint you have.

      I’m an educated professional with 12 years experience. My job was eliminated by outsourcing last June. I have been seeking full time employment (spending 8 + hours a day looking/applying) until two weeks ago when I finally found a job. I took a 10K salary reduction, and added an hour (each way) commute. In the previous months I wasn’t finding anything approaching HALF my previous salary. It isn’t as easy as you ivory tower, judgemental types make it.

      1. I think you missed his point, at least as far as I make of it: why would you expect an unlimited service for yourself when you are not contributing back to society in any economic way?
        That’s a couple shades beyond “something for nothing” – it’s everything for nothing! And you don’t get either of those in real life.

        1. “why would you expect an unlimited service for yourself”
          Because they offered it and he paid them for it! What the hell does his employment status have to do with his contract with AT&T?

        2. … contract saying “unlimited bandwidth for $X per month”, was up to date on my payments, and the company unilaterally cut my service, what in the name of All That Is Holy would my employment status have to do with the situation? You get better service if you have a job? The company will respect the contract you both signed if you have a job? Seriously?

      2. jobs ARE plentiful right now. There are millions of jobs in this country sitting unfilled because our populace is too dumb to fill them. Thanks again to conservatives, and Texas in particular, for dumbing down the U.S.

  2. John F. Kennedy once said “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” The same applies in the marketplace. Restricting customers’ ability to redress grievances encourages them to find alternatives.

    I pay AT&T a premium for “unlimited” iPhone data plan which is actually limited. Further, AT&T uses my internet without compensation for a micro-cell because their service is so poor.

    Is it a surprise that my new iPad is not on AT&T?

  3. The Supreme Court, along conservative/liberal lines, voted 5 to 4 to rely on a federal statute from 1925 to override state’s rights to allow class actions lawsuits, an odd position for the justices who support states rights over federal legislation.
    Doing away with class actions lawsuits makes corporations much more unaccountable for any action a consumer may protest, the consumer’s only avenue being arbitration or small claims court. This virtually ends a legal way to force unfair/illegal practices to be altered. A recent example of class action happened in modulating carriers positions on early termination fees.
    The corporations view is those things are best done through social media like Facebook, Twitter, and not through the courts. So the four dominant carriers now have clauses in their contracts to prohibit class action lawsuits. Surely these class actions may line the pockets of lawyers, as claimed ATT, feigning concern for the welfare of the customers, but the suits also put pressure on corporations to alter unfair/illegal mandates.
    Of course, if one is in favor of consumers having no choice, then doing away with this choice would make sense, along with the ‘corporation knows best philosophy’.

    1. Pro business interest have stacked the Appellate and Supreme court with conservative, narrow-minded ideologues thanks to the 2 Bush administrations. Hence, if peo-business/anti-consumer designs can’t be legislated, then the Federal judicial system will gladly make up for it.

    2. Sounds like part of a trend:

      […] we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

  4. Yeah, and in a class action lawsuit he would have gotten a coupon for $25 off the price of a new Android phone, while all of the bloodsucking lawyers would be rolling in dough. Screw that crap!

  5. “Thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 2011, which upheld a company’s right to include a clause in contracts prohibiting subscribers from suing the company as part of a class action”

    ahh… I was on my way here to post that this “can’t sue a carrier in a Class action” thing was total BS, I was involved in two against Verizon… it’s why I’m a AT&T customer now.

    But I didn’t see that line. Guess things have changed.

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