The Right to Class Action

July 16, 2007

State high court says consumers can’t sign away class-action rights
Contract at odds with Consumer Protection Act, justices say

To get wireless service, credit cards or even employment, consumers frequently sign contracts agreeing to resolve their disputes through mandatory arbitration.

What many don’t realize — unless they read the fine print of the agreement — is that they also often waive their right to file a class-action lawsuit against the company.

In a significant victory for consumers, the Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the former Cingular Wireless, now AT&T, cannot enforce a waiver in its contract that prohibits customers from pursuing a class action.

“The class-action waiver is unconscionable because it effectively denies large numbers of consumers the protection of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act,” Justice Tom Chambers wrote in the 6-3 majority opinion.

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