An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T is denying that its contracts include “forced arbitration” clauses, even though customers must agree to the clauses in order to obtain Internet or TV service. “At the outset, no AT&T customer is ever ‘forced’ to agree to arbitration,” AT&T Executive VP Tim McKone wrote in a letter to U.S. senators. “Customers accept their contracts with AT&T freely and voluntarily; no one ‘forces’ them to obtain AT&T wireless service, DirecTV programming, or other products and services.” AT&T was responding to concerns raised by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who previously alleged that AT&T’s use of forced arbitration clauses has helped the company charge higher prices than the ones it advertises to customers. While AT&T is correct that no one is forced to sign up for AT&T service, there are numerous areas of the country where AT&T is the only viable option for wired home Internet service. Even in wireless, where there’s more competition, AT&T rivals Verizon and Sprint use mandatory arbitration clauses, so signing up with another carrier won’t necessarily let customers avoid arbitration. One exception is T-Mobile, which offers a way to opt out of arbitration. The terms of service for AT&T Internet and DirecTV require customers to “agree to arbitrate all disputes and claims” against AT&T. Class actions and trials by jury are prohibited, although individual cases in small claims courts are allowed. AT&T doesn’t offer any way to opt out of the arbitration/small claims provision, so the only other option is not buying service from AT&T.
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