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Verizon FIOS Jumps on Arbitration Bandwagon

By Gary E. Mason | 

The inevitable has arrived.  This morning I received an email from Verizon, being the “valued” customer that I am, letting me know that the Verizon Terms of Service for FIOS has been revised.  Oh boy!  Could this mean that  Verizon would be strengthening its  privacy policy, taking steps to ensure that my personal data was secure,  reducing the termination fee, or extending its warranty on defective equipment?

Of course not.  You could see it coming.  Verizon has joined the list of  great American corporations which have decided to deprive  consumers of their rights  to go to court against it with a class action and to have a trial by jury.

We have previously reported that Sony, Microsoft and, of course, AT&T have forced arbitration provisions upon their customers.  Now Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless service provider, has joined the bandwagon.

So, my fellow  Verizon customers, whether you like it or not, you have now agreed with Verizon to resolve disputes “only by arbitration or in small claims court. “   And in case there was any doubt as to what Verizon is up to, here it is, just as Verizon printed it, in all bold caps:

17.3 THIS AGREEMENT DOES NOT ALLOW CLASS OR COLLECTIVE ARBITRATIONS EVEN IF THE AAA OR BBB PROCEDURES OR RULES WOULD. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF THIS AGREEMENT, THE ARBITRATOR SHALL NOT HAVE THE POWER TO DETERMINE THAT CLASS ARBITRATION IS PERMISSIBLE. THE ARBITRATOR ALSO SHALL NOT HAVE THE POWER TO PRESIDE OVER CLASS OR COLLECTIVE ARBITRATION, OR TO AWARD ANY FORM OF CLASSWIDE OR COLLECTIVE REMEDY. INSTEAD, THE ARBITRATOR SHALL HAVE POWER TO AWARD MONEY OR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ONLY IN FAVOR OF THE INDIVIDUAL PARTY SEEKING RELIEF AND ONLY TO THE EXTENT NECESSARY TO PROVIDE RELIEF WARRANTED BY THAT PARTY'S INDIVIDUAL CLAIM. NO CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE OR PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL THEORIES OF LIABILITY OR PRAYERS FOR RELIEF MAY BE MAINTAINED IN ANY ARBITRATION HELD UNDER THIS AGREEMENT. NO AAA OR BBB RULE WILL APPLY IF IT CONFLICTS WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT. IN ADDITION, NOTWITHSTANDING ANY CONTRARY PROVISION IN THE AAA OR BBB RULES, THE ARBITRATOR WILL BE BOUND TO APPLY LEGAL PRINCIPLES AND THE LAWS THAT GOVERN THIS AGREEMENT.

 Still not convinced that Verizon is trying as hard as it can to make sure you can’t file a class action against it?  Then read this:

            17.7 IF FOR SOME REASON THE PROHIBITION ON CLASS ARBITRATIONS SET FORTH IN SUBSECTION 17.3 CANNOT BE ENFORCED, THEN THE AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE WILL NOT APPLY.

 And if for some reason, you are able to get your class action case into a court room, Verizon is going to still stick it to you and prevent a jury from hearing your case:

 17.8 IF FOR ANY REASON A CLAIM PROCEEDS IN COURT RATHER THAN THROUGH ARBITRATION, YOU AND VERIZON AGREE THAT THERE WILL NOT BE A JURY TRIAL. YOU AND VERIZON UNCONDITIONALLY WAIVE ANY RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY IN ANY ACTION, PROCEEDING OR COUNTERCLAIM ARISING OUT OF OR RELATING TO THIS AGREEMENT IN ANY WAY. IN THE EVENT OF LITIGATION, THIS PARAGRAPH MAY BE FILED TO SHOW A WRITTEN CONSENT TO A TRIAL BY THE COURT.

The tidal wave of forced arbitration provisions in consumer contracts is upon us.  Until Congress takes action, consumers will have band together to counter corporations which have unilaterally decided to take away our rights to bring class actions and have our disputes resolved by a jury of our peers. 

Want to learn more about forced arbitration provisions and how you can fight back?  Visit www.consumerscount.org.