Senators Say AT&T’s Forced Arbitration Lets Them Overcharge Customers

If you find yourself paying more for AT&T cable or internet service than you thought you’d be paying, you’re not alone. According to a CBS investigation, the company has racked up over 4,000 official complaints over the past 24 months specifically related to pricing on their cable and internet service.

Now, five US Senators are arguing that it’s AT&T’s forced arbitration clauses actually let them legally charge customers higher than advertised prices.

At the center of the senator’s argument is a CBS investigation that highlighted the thousands of customer complaints. The unfortunate thing is, customers have almost no recourse because they’re forced to settle their disputed through arbitration instead of a regular court. Out of the millions of customers and thousands of complaints, fewer than 20 actually went through the process of arbitration.

The problem is, the senators say, that the arbitration is much more biased towards the service provider than a traditional court of law would be. And it’s a system that has no recourse to challenge an outcome. Consumers actually sign away their constitutional right to hold the service provider accountable, even agreeing to a class action waiver that stops customers from banding together.

Of course, AT&T sees their arbitration as being more fair to the customer. “We have been widely recognized for having one of the most consumer-friendly arbitration policies in the country,” they said in a statement to CBS.

“One federal court said our arbitration agreement has ‘perhaps the most fair and consumer-friendly provisions this Court has ever seen. The agreement provides strong incentives for us to resolve disputes prior to arbitration, and we resolve the vast majority before arbitration begins.”

So even though AT&T is purposely charging customers more than they agreed to, a convoluted contract means there’s not a lot customer can do about it. Even those who decide to cancel are often met with early termination fees. At a time cable rates are rising higher than ever, this isn’t a time for customers to lose trust in big cable.

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Artie Beaty

Artie Beaty is a freelance writer from North Carolina who follows the world of streaming closely on a daily basis. Contact him at or on Twitter @AboutCharlotte.
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