Print 91 comment(s) - last by Icelight.. on Oct 5 at 1:04 PM

AT&T Legal Policy threatens to cancel service for criticizing AT&T and its affiliates

AT&T is one of the largest providers of mobile phone, home phone and internet access in the United States. In many areas, AT&T is the only choice for phone and data services. AT&T has updated its legal policy with new standards, which if enforced, could leave customers without service.

The new legal policy takes away a customer’s right to criticize AT&T without the fear of losing their service. In many rural areas where the only phone provider and Internet service provider is AT&T, this effectively means that any criticism of AT&T could leave them without data service. The section of the AT&T Legal Policy that takes away the customers constitutional right to free speech reads:

5.1 Suspension/Termination… [AT&T] may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

Some will say that AT&T has the right to refuse service to anyone. At the same time, others will say that refusing service to someone for simply criticizing AT&T is infringing on the right to free speech. For many Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Many business professionals work from home and use broadband Internet access to connect to corporate networks. For those that are tied in with AT&T’s service (by choice or because there are no other options available), one should be careful not to step on AT&T’s toes or face disconnection.

Another item of note is that if AT&T decides to disconnect your service for any reason, they can delete any files you have, including emails, without notification. What is not clear from the policy is if criticizing any AT&T service can result in termination of your AT&T data service. If you get an iPhone and complain in comments here at DailyTech because the update breaks your unlocked iPhone, could you lose your AT&T data services?

Updated 10/2/2007
AT&T has issued the following statement with regards to the above policy:

AT&T respects its subscribers' rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from websites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation). We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T. This policy is not new and it's not unique to AT&T.

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Wait this is only the beginning........
By crystal clear on 10/2/2007 9:08:47 AM , Rating: 0
Now comes the next blow to the helpless consumers.

Now they take your rights away to go to court ! via those service contracts usually inserted in between the long list of clauses-very hard to locate.

You realize its existance only when its too late !

Watch out! read the fine print carefully before you sign the contracts.

Read this & get yourself a wakeup call-

The fine print associated with service agreements from credit card, wireless phone, Internet access, and other service contracts is increasingly likely to includes a clause that removes contract disputes from the legal system, subjecting them instead to binding arbitration

Now if you think arbitration is OK,then read on further-

A report issued by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen portrays the process as heavily slanted towards business , and a Kafkaesque nightmare for individuals.

As the instigators of the process, corporations can choose the firm that performs the arbitration, and can shop for those that have provided the most favorable outcomes in the past. They also have the option of rejecting the initial choice of arbitrators, allowing those with pro-consumer records to be screened out. Both the firms and individual arbitrators are paid on a per-case basis, and thus are under pressure to ensure they are viewed favorably by companies.

Consumers, in contrast, have very few rights. Arbitration can proceed provided the company has attempted to notify the individual; actual consumer awareness of the proceedings appears to be optional. There are also fees at nearly every stage of the process, including a fee simply to have a hearing on the dispute or to see the ruling itself. Having the reasoning behind the decision spelled out requires a fee paid in advance of the actual decision. Appeal options are limited, and even a flawed initial ruling isn't grounds for reversal. Finally, arbitration doesn't allow individuals to pool resources through class action status.

Given how the deck appears to be stacked, why would anyone ever agree to mandatory arbitration? In many cases, it's simply a matter of ignorance of the risks involved; the report includes a list of steps to take to avoid entering into a contract that includes mandatory arbitration. But in some instances, such as Internet or phone access, consumers may have few options and find these clauses hard to avoid. As a long term solution, Public Citizen urges support for the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 (PDF), which amends existing laws to limit binding arbitration to cases where the two parties have equal power within existing contracts.

Thanks to Arstechnica for this eye opener-

RE: Wait this is only the beginning........
By on 10/2/2007 3:17:22 PM , Rating: 2
subjecting them instead to binding arbitration

And courts have overturned these 'arbitration clauses' over and over again.

Just as I'm (fairly) sure courts would not uphold any part of a contract negating a customer's ability to have an opinion.

By MightyAA on 10/3/2007 7:17:21 PM , Rating: 2
Not exactly. The courts have upheld the right to trial. They also heavily recommend an attempt at arbitration or mediation prior to a formal lawsuit. Arbitration is a hell of a lot cheaper and quicker than a trial. But there are limitations such as punitive damages.

That writeup was very, very biased. Arbitration clauses are typical in pretty much every contract I've seen; that doesn't waive your rights to a trial if you so wish.

They are somewhat biased in as far as they look at the contract. 99% of the time, the company made that contract, knows what's in there, and you just signed it. Typically, the person that just signed the darn thing didn't read the clauses and doesn't understand. You'll get no pity from the arbitration or from the courts for ignorance and failure to abide by the contract.

Again, if you don't want to use AT&T, then don't... If they are THE only option, bend over because you need them a lot more than they need you.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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