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Antitrust Law

After Supreme Court Win Forcing Customers to Arbitrate, AT&T Now Sues to Stop the Arbitration

Posted Aug 17, 2011 2:03 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Victorious a few months ago before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that held customers were required by their phone contracts to arbitrate claims rather than sue, AT&T is now trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

The telecommunications giant has filed suit in eight federal courts throughout the country, seeking to block customer arbitrations that could prevent a potential merger with T-Mobile, reports Reuters.

The litigation targets two plaintiffs' firms, Bursor & Fisher and Faruqi & Faruqi, that have mounted a "Fight the Merger" campaign. The firms have lined up 1,000 or so potential arbitration claims by AT&T customers.

A lawyer for AT&T, Andrew Pincus, tells Reuters that the supreme court decision in AT&T v. Concepcion blocks class relief in any forum, allowing customers only to bring arbitration claims concerning individual issues. And AT&T also contends that arbitrators have no authority to block a merger, notes PC Magazine.

However, Richard Brunell of the American Antitrust Institute says customers have a right to challenge anticompetitive conduct, Reuters reports.

And attorney Scott Bursor, who represents a number of arbitration plaintiffs in the "Fight the Merger" campaign, characterized the company's case against arbitration as "frivolous" and said the American Arbitration Association is proceeding with the individual arbitration claims despite AT&T's objections.

The company's decision to file suit in federal court "appears to be an act of desperation," Bursor said in an email to the news agency, "since AT&T now realizes it faces substantial likelihood that one or more of these arbitrations will stop the takeover from happening."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Law Firm Makes Lemonade After Supremes Nix AT&T Class Action, Now Pursues Individual Arbitrations"

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