Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in AT&T v. Concepcion, which I have mentioned frequently on this blog, companies have sought to avoid class actions by requiring consumers and employees to arbitrate their disputes individually.
In Connecticut, a Comcast subscriber had filed a class action in 2009 accusing the firm of violating U.S. antitrust laws by unlawfully bundling digital voice service with a modem. The complaint alleged subscribers had no choice but to pay a rental fee for the modem.
Comcast sought to use the Supreme Court AT&T v. Concepcion ruling to force Robert Fromer of Windsor, Connecticut to bring his claims in arbitration, citing clauses in his subscriber agreement. U.S. District Judge Underhill denied the motion on Tuesday, citing the cost of forcing Fromer to litigate on his own. He said Fromer might expect to recover $1 for every $202 he spent in litigation and recover damages of up to $495. “Therefore, because the class action waiver in this case effectively precludes Fromer from pursuing federal statutory remedies, the class arbitration waiver is void,” Underhill wrote.
The ruling follows a similar decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in February finding American Express Co could not use arbitration clauses to avoid an antitrust lawsuit by merchant customers.