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Congress Investigates Carriers' Debt Collections

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the voters-are-in-favor-of-kneecaps dept.

Wireless Networking 134

Julie188 writes "'Tis the season for the government to crack down on abusive practices by your secretly evil national wireless carrier. Next up: a congressional committee will be looking into a debt collection practice that prevents customers from filing lawsuits. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will be examining a contract clause that forces customers to waive their right to sue and instead agree to forced arbitration. He is hot on the tails of the carriers after a similar investigation of credit card companies lead to nine banks removing the forced arbitration clause from their contracts. This follows the week's earlier news that the FCC was going to try to come up with new rules to prevent wireless bill shock."

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If you need an honest man (5, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#33917036)

I think Dennis Kucinich is someone that can be trusted to look after the people instead of pandering to business.

Re:If you need an honest man (4, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 4 years ago | (#33917070)

I heard he once told staffers of Nanci Pelosi and a pair of AIPAC lobbyists to get the hell out of his office and not come back. Word has it now he's denying it happened, but its the kind of thing he'd do, and really raised my estimation of him from that of cooky communist elf man to someone who also wants to tell AIPAC to go to hell.

I met him once by accident, briefly. However, he had wondered off before I could ask him to be in a short video clip saying "they're always after me lucky charms." His ears are slightly more pointed in person than they are on TV.

Re:If you need an honest man (5, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 4 years ago | (#33918364)

He's no communist, and he's definitely not a kook. He's my congressman, and I've spoken with him at several public events. The thing is, he has throughout his career taken stands that upset the rich and powerful, so they often do their best to portray him as a kook.

For instance, the most famous episode from early in his political career (as mayor of Cleveland) was refusing to sell Cleveland's municipal power company to the private company that controls most of Ohio's electricity market. The electric company's pals at the banks then threatened the city with default rather than rolling over the debt as they had been doing for decades. Dennis stood his ground, the banks made good on their threat, and Kucinich lost his reelection bid. But in the long run he saved residents and businesses in Cleveland millions of dollars in electric bills.

His more recent exploits include:
  * Refusing to support the Patriot Act.
  * Refusing to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He consistantly votes against appropriations for those wars, and has been doing so since before they started.
  * Introducing articles of impeachment against both George W Bush and Dick Cheney.
  * Acting as one of the leaders of the backbencher holdouts for a public option in the health care reform bill. Unfortunately, Obama was able to convince him that HCR without a public option was better than no HCR, so he eventually voted for it.

The Democratic leadership doesn't give a damn what he does, though, because he's not good at getting oodles of lobbyist dollars (gee, I wonder why). So when he was running for President in 2008, the questions he got during debates were about whether he'd seen a UFO, not about his plans for reforming health care without mandating that everyone buy insurance.

Re:If you need an honest man (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | about 4 years ago | (#33919094)

Yeah, Dennis rocks. A few more like him and we would actually have representative government. Go Dennis!

Re:If you need an honest man (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33917340)

>>>Dennis Kucinich is someone that can be trusted to look after the people instead of pandering to business.

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. I saw them on television recently, discussing all the things they had in common. For example, both think the Federal Reserve (central bank) is a business monopoly that screws the customers by devaluing paper money, and should be audited at least once per decade to find out where the money is being spent, and possibly dissolved.

BTW binding arbitration doesn't mean much. Paypal tried to include that in their TOS but when they later were sued by State AGs for stealing money from customer accounts, the justice quickly nullified the clause as being in violation of consumer protection laws. He said that users cannot sign-away rights already protected by superior laws. Same applies here with the wireless carriers.

The Fed (3, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 years ago | (#33917728)

Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. I saw them on television recently, discussing all the things they had in common.

How they are both fringe loonies that few people take very seriously? I've met Dennis Kucinich in person. Not a guy I'd vote for.

For example, both think the Federal Reserve (central bank) is a business monopoly that screws the customers by devaluing paper money...

A retarded notion. First off, only a tiny percentage of the money in the economy is actual paper/coin currency. We're talking single digit percentage. Second, the fed adjusts the amount of money in circulation both up and down to respond to the needs of the economy. Devaluing (usually called weakening) the currency is not necessarily bad because it makes exports more competitive. This is exactly what China has done with their currency - they hold it below its natural market value because it makes their exports cost less in other markets. Conversely, if you strengthen the dollar (take dollars out of circulation) you make imports cheaper but you hurt exports.

, and should be audited at least once per decade to find out where the money is being spent, and possibly dissolved.

While there are limits which are deserving of criticism, the Fed is regularly audited by the GAO. There are as we speak transparency laws and some (recently successful) lawsuits that should address some of these issues.

As for dissolving the Fed, you'll need to first address how you are going to resolve the issues that the Fed currently exists to handle including check clearing, being a lender of last resort, managing nation wide payment systems, balancing the interests of private for-profit banks with that of government, keeping reserve funds for the banking system, adjusting the money supply, providing liquidity to lending institutions, reducing the chance of and impact of bank runs, controlling systemic financial risk and more. While the Fed is hardly a perfect institution (far from it), it serves a number of vital purposes. I have yet to hear anyone who proposes eliminating the Federal Reserve System actually address in any detail a replacement system. Central banks exist for some very good reasons.

Re:The Fed (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918280)

>>>Not a guy I'd vote for.

So who did you vote for? Bush? Obama?
.

>>>only a tiny percentage of the money in the economy is actual paper/coin currency.

Uh. Irrelevant to the point. The point is the money, whether paper or numbers in a computer, is easily devalued because it's fiat currency. If a candybar cost 1 penny in 1910, and now costs about a dollar for the Same candybar, it's obvious the money has been devalued to 1/100th its previous value.

Put another way, if my grandfather had owned $10,000 in 1910 he'd be rich (equivalent to being a millionaire). But over time they devalued that fiat currency to where it's only half a year's rent on an apartment. The Central Bank Monopoly has stolen citizens' wealth via devaluation
.

Re:The Fed (3, Informative)

cob666 (656740) | about 4 years ago | (#33918388)

If a candybar cost 1 penny in 1910, and now costs about a dollar for the Same candybar, it's obvious the money has been devalued to 1/100th its previous value.

You're confusing devaluation with inflation.

Re:The Fed (1, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919042)

>>>You're confusing devaluation with inflation.

They are two sides of the same coin. Like addition and subtraction. Or multiplication and division. What you call "inflation" is CAUSED by devaluation of the fait currency, because the Central Bank increased they money supply by approximately 100 fold.

Put another way: If they had held the money supply constant, as they did in the 1800s, then a candybar would still cost just 1 penny. A man's business suit would still be just $5. And so on.

Re:The Fed (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 years ago | (#33919098)

Put another way: If they had held the money supply constant, as they did in the 1800s, then a candybar would still cost just 1 penny. A man's business suit would still be just $5. And so on.

If they'd held the money supply constant, things would be pretty out of whack by now simply due to the population expansion.

76 million people in 1900 with all the currency distributed amongst them... 300+ million people now... that means the currency is going to be distributed a lot more thinly... better hope a business suit doesn't cost $5. Few would be able to afford it.

Re:The Fed (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919502)

>>>currency is going to be distributed a lot more thinly..

I have no idea what you're talking about. You think people benefit because now they have to spend $500 to get a business suit instead of the $5 it cost in 1910? Or ~$200/week on food instead of the ~$2 it used to cost? If you do think that's beneficial, then you're no better than the corporations.

Re:The Fed (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 years ago | (#33919674)

I have no idea what you're talking about

Its simple. If you hold the money supply constant while the population quadruples you create a currency shortage. No different than if you held anything else constant... housing for example.

Bottom line, you can't hold currency constant.

You think people benefit because now they have to spend $500 to get a business suit instead of the $5 it cost in 1910? Or ~$200/week on food instead of the ~$2 it used to cost? If you do think that's beneficial, then you're no better than the corporations.

I didn't say this benefits people. I just said holding it constant doesn't. So to sum up: Not expanding it causes problems. Expanding it to much causes problems.

Re:The Fed (1, Insightful)

Hooya (518216) | about 4 years ago | (#33919840)

> 76 million people in 1900 with all the currency distributed amongst them... 300+ million people now... that means the currency is going to be distributed a lot more thinly...

Ahhh.. the Fed is the Capitalists way of "distributing" wealth.

Say, I have $1000 and there is 100,000 in circulation. That means my share of the total wealth is 1/100. Now if the Fed pumps in another 100,000 my share is suddenly 1/200. The other way to achieve that same effect would have been to tax me 50% on my savings. But then that's all "socialist". Nobody wants to do that.

I don't care why they do it.. to stabilize the economy, to account for the population growth.. the end effect is that it devalues (effectively, taxes away) my hard earned dollars that I've diligently saved up. It's like I'm working hard at putting money away in the bank but the Feds have a back door into the vault where they can walk in and take a portion away anytime they feel like it.

Re:The Fed (1)

dkf (304284) | about 4 years ago | (#33919396)

If a candybar cost 1 penny in 1910, and now costs about a dollar for the Same candybar, it's obvious the money has been devalued to 1/100th its previous value.

Is it really all that obvious? The costs associated with producing a candy bar will have changed over that time, and the amount that people earn has also changed for sure. It's better to scale things by average salary so that you're looking at how much stuff people can afford.

Re:The Fed (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918552)

>>>issues that the Fed currently exists to handle

Let the Congress do it, per the Constitution, rather than a private company.

Re:If you need an honest man (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33918178)

Those are state laws. I think it's a great idea to make it federal. Goddamned corporations are all thieving bastards who need to be kept on a tight leash.

Re:If you need an honest man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918052)

Bullshit! He caved in a big way on health care when Obama read him the riot act. Probably did the same on the wall street bill. He's no leader and is as forgettable as the rest. Just another wimp, or a fraud. Don't know which is worse Fuck him...

Re:If you need an honest man (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | about 4 years ago | (#33918120)

> He caved in a big way on health care

Here's his explanation:

http://www.esquire.com/the-side/qa/dennis-kucinich-health-care-bill-032210 [esquire.com]

Re:If you need an honest man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918546)

It's his excuse... and it's a load of crap. He squandered his big chance to practice what he always preached... It was proof he would make a lousy president who cowers before the demons when they present their real form. He is now the textbook definition of "wimp"

Poor article (-1, Troll)

TheMidget (512188) | about 4 years ago | (#33917046)

A much better writeup can be found here [goo.gl]

Re:Poor article (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 years ago | (#33917470)

TheMidget is the receiver at Goatse - don't click unless you really want to see him nekkid.

Hmmm... (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about 4 years ago | (#33918826)

This is the third 6-digit UID I've seen posting single sentences with Goatse goo.gl links... maybe someone is hacking /. accounts?

eh? (2, Funny)

scarface71795 (1920250) | about 4 years ago | (#33917082)

At least this shows congress doesn't deepthroat the corporations dicks They just go halfway in

Hmm this word you keep using... (5, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 4 years ago | (#33917084)

Tis the season for the government to crack down on abusive practices by your secretly evil national wireless carrier

That is the worst kept secret EVER. They are all evil, every last one of them, and if you don't know this by now then you must not have ever had a cellphone before.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33917202)

Yeah, I thought it was just there to try and bias the reader in opposition to the move. You might not notice the evil at first, but you will, unlimited plans which are somehow less than limited, roaming charges when you're in your own dinning room and don't even think about using your phone if you're within a few miles of the border.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

gagol (583737) | about 4 years ago | (#33917230)

I am from your up north neighbour, and I resigned my cell phone. I don't miss it and if I ever need one for my job, I expect it to be paid by my employer. I simply gave too much money to those evil entities. A fraudulent 360$ bill made me simply stop paying for those services. I wish their executives rot in hell, or at least get raped before they die from a painful death.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33917404)

>>>A fraudulent 360$ bill made me simply stop paying for those services

I hope you did not pay. So can we hear the rest of the story? What happened that they charged you fraudulently? I was charged a similar amount for roaming calls, but it was not fraudulent - it was perfectly legal.

Your story reminds me of the Verizon customer that was charged 76 dollars when it should have been 76 cents. He eventually was given a full refund, although it took a month and an embarrassing website to get it. .002 cents/KB times 35896 KB used == 71.8 cents. Here's the thirty minute call edited to three minutes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2isSJKntbg [youtube.com]

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

gagol (583737) | about 4 years ago | (#33917644)

I added 60 minutes to my forfait, they billed it three times on the first month and never used it to cover my extra minutes, for which they billed them at the exorbitant rate of 1$ per minute... At that rate I could use an Iridium phone over satellite. The company (Telus Mobility) never excused or agree to rectify the situation. Our agreement then would be me stop paying, and them pull the plug. I kept the Android phone...

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919528)

There must be more to this story. Why would a company bill you $30 overage protection (180 minutes( and then not use it? Makes no sense, unless you're not sharing some crucial part of the story - like maybe the minutes didn't roll over month-to-month.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917284)

They have more money than sense, you actually think any one of them actually stepped into a store in their entire life? No, they have people to do that for them.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917742)

I saw an add this morning for an assistant for a CEOs assistant. One of the job responsibilities is going grocery shopping for the CEOs assistant.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (-1, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33917380)

>>>They are all evil,

In what way they are evil? Enumerate the ways. :-)

Also why don't you just switch to another carrier? One of the benefits of a free market is that Power is in the hands of the consumer to run his/her own life. Example: When Cingular/ATT increased my rate from $10 to $30/month, I just switched to VirginMobile instead. They are not evil. In fact they are quite good at helping me save money (the monthly fee is $0.00)(I only get charged when I make calls). I'd sooner be Pro-choice than no choice (government run).

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 years ago | (#33917558)

Enumerate? 1. Subsidizing all those "smart phones" that are worth $500 to $800 (more?) by scamming the public into accepting expensive two year contracts. Yes, it's a SCAM! Sell those phones at their real value, be open and honest about what the phone really costs, then just sell phone service for ~$20/month, with unlimited talk and text, plus maybe another $20 for unlimited data. 2. Charging crazy rates for text. Everything that I've read says that it costs the phone company almost NOTHING to send out those text messages. 3. Accepting government funds to build infrastructure that never gets built. Phone and data companies are tripping over each other in the inner cities and wealthier suburbs - but the infrastructure doesn't make it out into the rest of the country. 4. Blocking local governments from building the infrastructure that the phone companies don't want to build anyway. 5. Sending out zillion dollar phone bills without ever even questioning the crazy amounts. I mean - if you sold a phone to an old guy who only calls his daughter once a week, and he talks for 10 minutes each time, then suddenly his bill is $20,000 - SOMETHING IS WRONG!!! Someone stole his phone, or your computers are borked! 6. Ironclad contracts that say that the company can never be wrong, never be liable, and if there is any question, review rules one and two. 7. Customer service SUCKS. They don't intend to serve any customers, it's just that simple. Enough?

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918838)

>>>Subsidizing all those "smart phones" that are worth $500 to $800 (more?) by scamming the public into accepting expensive two year contracts.

I don't see anything wrong with that. All you need to do is multiply 24 months by the rate, to see how much you will be spending, and decide whether or not it's a good bargain. Like when Dish Network installed a dish in my neighbor's house for ~$32.50 over two years. If he had to buy the dish and hire his own installer, it would be much more expensive than that. I think most of these deals SAVE customers' money, and I like them.

If you disagree, well then just sign-on with one of those pay-as-you-go companies that sell the phone and service separately.
.

>>>Charging crazy rates for text. Everything that I've read says that it costs the phone company almost NOTHING to send out those text messages.

Okay. (1) Get one of those unlimited text plans instead. Mine provides 1000 for only $15 or a mere penny per text. They also have unlimited for $20 which brings the cost even lower than a penny! Not a ripoff. (2) How much do you think a text actually costs a company? Do you have a hard number for its value? I have no clue.
.

>>>Accepting government funds to build infrastructure that never gets built.

Proof please. And I don't mean somebody's blog. I mean actual evidence taken from US Law. Unlike some people I've read the actual 1996 Act, and it appropriates money for *analog-to-digital phone line upgrades* not fiber or wireless. If you can prove me wrong, please do so. :-)

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918852)

The scam is that there's absolutely no real competition. (e.g. text messages should cost virtually nothing, so why does EVERY provider sell their "unlimited texts" plan for an extra $15 a month?)

Find a way to make the US cell phone market competitive, and you'll find better deals. Until then, I'd much, much rather have gov't intervention than the un-free-market solution we have now.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918872)

>>>Blocking local governments from building the infrastructure that the phone companies don't want to build anyway.

Proof please.
.

>>>Sending out zillion dollar phone bills without ever even questioning the crazy amounts.

Computers don't question. And humans don't look at these bills. It's all handled automatically, so if you get one of them, all you need to do is point-out the error and it will be corrected. I've done this several times over the years, and it's really no big deal.
.

>>>Ironclad contracts that say that the company can never be wrong, never be liable,

Nullified by State and US Consumer protection laws. Consumers cannot sign-away their rights. For example if a contract says, "The Company reserves the right to murder its customer," that is obviously NOT going to hold up in court. Neither is most of the rest of the contract if it is contrary to current law.
.

>>>Customer service SUCKS.

This doesn't make a company "evil". Incompetent perhaps but not evil. And we've seen what happens to companies that have lousy service (Blockbuster, Circuit City, Wards): They go bankrupt and die.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33919748)

Why did you split this up into so many different post? Fucking worthless karma whore. Keep your delusional bullshit in one post so it can all be modded down at once please.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (-1, Flamebait)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918900)

P.S.

Man up. You strike me as the kind of person who has victim mentality. You can only be a victim if you allow yourself to be one. I've had a lot of sellers on Ebay try to scam me, but I used existing laws to screw them up the ass. I've quit companies like Comcast because they sucked, and told Bell Telephone to go shove their "modem surcharge" up their ass.

If you keep bending over, of course the companies will take advantage of you. So stop bending over. Be a man, not a geek.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (1, Informative)

sonicmerlin (1505111) | about 4 years ago | (#33919566)

Oh just shutup you stupid corporate troll. No one likes to read your drivel nearly as much as you do.

Re:Hmm this word you keep using... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33919488)

With cell phones, the only winning move is not to play. They may be convenient, but I don't think you really need one.
Having one also gives other people you don't want to be in contact with one more way to reach you.

Where's the technology? (0)

GaryOlson (737642) | about 4 years ago | (#33917168)

When did this become a business methods and government regulation discussion site? Debt collection practices by monopolies is not a technology discussion.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 4 years ago | (#33917198)

How many slashdotters *don't* spend more than 100 bucks a month on their evil carrier overlord of choice...

Go ahead, ask around, I will wait.

I know I don't, and anyone with a smartphone is lucky if they are under the 100 mark (god help them if they have a family)... Smartphones are the new geek gold standard, and I for one want to keep an eye on carriers. They are up to some sneaky shit.

Re:Where's the technology? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917262)

Verizon Droid: $40 voice, $30 "unlimited" data = about $85 after fees, insurance and taxes.

Re:Where's the technology? (4, Informative)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 4 years ago | (#33917744)

Here is what AT&T charges above the advertised rate for my wireless:

Credits, Adjustments, and Other Charges:
* Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge: 0.66
* Federal Universal Service Charge: 1.04
* TX Franschise Tax Recovery: 0.30
* Texas Universal Service: 0.65

Taxes:
* 911 Service Fee: 0.50
* Tx State Telecom Tax: 2.72
* City Telecom Tax: 0.44
* City District Telecom Tax: 0.29

The important thing to note here is the "Credits, Adjustments, and Other Charges" section is not taxes. They are fees with names made up by AT&T to sound like taxes so customers won't complain. In reality this section is just an additional $2.65 monthly charge not included in the advertised rate. They should clearly state a rate for everything that is not taxes. But, of course, they are evil and regulation is weak so that will never happen.

Re:Where's the technology? (2, Insightful)

Swanktastic (109747) | about 4 years ago | (#33918664)

The Universal Service Fund really is a tax. The bill was written specifically to make the phone companies look bad (ha ha I know) by taxing them above and beyond normal federal tax rates, then giving them the option to pass the charge onto their customers. Every business on the planet is going to pass that tax on, but congress can look good by saying "Hey your evil phone carrier is not voluntarily taking this tax out of their profits!"

When possible, politicians try to have someone else collect their taxes so they're not the ones getting shot in a "shoot the messenger" situation.

Re:Where's the technology? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33918984)

>>>"Credits, Adjustments, and Other Charges" section is not taxes.

Uh, yes, yes they are taxes (and all it took was a google search to find this shit):

- "The Federal Universal Service pays for four programs: Lifeline/Link-Up, High-Cost, Schools and Libraries, Rural Health Care (fcc.gov)
- TX Franschise Tax Recovery is a tax (www.state.tx.us)
- Texas Universal Service - ditto (www.state.tx.us)
- "The Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge is a charge assessed by AT&T associated with payment of government imposed fees and to recover the costs of compliance with government imposed regulatory requirements." (att.com) It includes: Federal Regulatory Fee- annual fee imposed on AT&T by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) - AT&T is required to make into the Federal TRS fund. Enhanced 911 (E911) - surcharge inposed by certain states. And so on for about ten more government-imposed items.

Taxes. Every one of them.

Re:Where's the technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917930)

I pay about $86-88 per month for my Verizon Blackberry -- $29.99 data, $39.99 calling plan, $8.99 insurance, and then of course all the fees and the occasional $0.20 or $0.40 for texts -- on average I send and receive 20 texts a year at the uppermost, so I don't pay for a texting plan, and I don't pay for apps with subscription fees, or any other extras.

Re:Where's the technology? (0)

Cylix (55374) | about 4 years ago | (#33917422)

I'm way under a hundred actually.

Now, in fairness tmobile has some nice pricing and my plan actually used to be cheaper. However, the moment I try to use a lower minute plan is when everyone wants to call me. That has probably more to do with karma then anything else.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33917442)

>>>How many slashdotters *don't* spend more than 100 bucks a month on their evil carrier overlord of choice...

I don't. My phone costs $0.00/month, and I'm billed per minute of use It's actually cheaper than my wired phone ($15).
I don't use the data features, because I'm almost always sitting in front of a computer when I need net access.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 years ago | (#33917598)

Verizon prepaid. I keep it because I'm on call every 4th week. I don't want to be tied to the house for that weekend. It costs me about 50 cents a day, I guess, unless I actually USE it. Then, it's about a dollar a day. Don't need or want any more than that, unless I can get unlimited data and tether it to my home computer. Since there is no tower close enough to me, that isn't happening.

Re:Where's the technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918080)

Virgin Samsung Intercept $225 up front

Unlimited data/text + 300 talk minutes - a mere $25

Interesting, I wonder if the dam has (finally) broken on the outrageous rates. Cricket mobile seemed to be leading the charge with a reasonable smartphone rate, but limited market area. Now Virgin (Sprint) and I just saw that T-Mobile has some interesting rate offers that are pretty cheap and a $250 Android phone.

This is my first smart phone as my geekiness could not overpower my cheapness until now.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#33918234)

How many slashdotters *don't* spend more than 100 bucks a month on their evil carrier overlord of choice...

Me? Up until recently, I spent ~$30 per month (including all the extra taxes and charges), but I decided that this was tossing money out the window, considering that I spent around 2 minutes of talk time and 5 minutes of data time each month.

One phone is a necessity.
Two is a convenience.
Three is a luxury.
None is heaven.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 4 years ago | (#33919682)

For a few months, I tried living without any phone service at all. It can be done.

Was pretty amusing whenever I was asked for a phone number. No one believed that I didn't have one. They took this attitude that I was just being difficult. The driver's license office was the worst. Would not proceed without a phone number. A valid passport wasn't enough for them. (Doesn't say good things about campaigning against cell phone use while driving, hmm? However I don't care for the implicit government support of the phone business.) Finally I gave in, sort of. Gave them a 555 number, and they refused to use it because it was obviously not valid. So I made one up that might have been valid, who knows? The bureaucrat knew it wasn't mine, but played along as it was good enough to satisfy their requirements.

You don't have to have a phone. You just have to have a phone number.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

lightversusdark (922292) | about 4 years ago | (#33918570)

I pay $39.99/month including taxes for "T-Mobile Total Internet Voice Bar".

Unlimited data (I have regularly exceeded 1GB a month, and occasionally much higher when tethering).
SMS is enabled, but charged at $0.12 each. I don't use it anyway.
Voice calling is barred.

I bought a Nexus One at launch, and I have free incoming and outgoing voice and text courtesy of Google Voice.
I have a free SIPgate account to give me a number to forward GV to. I also have a Gizmo5 account, which is better integrated with GV, but introduces higher latency to voice calls and has noticeably poorer call quality.

I now also run Skype on the handset, as do my family abroad. No more international call charges.
I have a predictable phone bill every month, which is all I ever wanted.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33918972)

I pay $39.99/month including taxes for "T-Mobile Total Internet Voice Bar".

I asked about that in a Best Buy Mobile store in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA. But they wouldn't sell me an Android phone up front, and they wouldn't sell me one subsidized by a data plan unless I signed up for $40/mo voice. I would use fewer than 10 percent of the included 450 minutes per month, and that'd be a heavy month for me. So I still have a dumbphone on Virgin Mobile.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

CffnDwllr (644273) | about 4 years ago | (#33918760)

How many slashdotters *don't* spend more than 100 bucks a month on their evil carrier overlord of choice...

Go ahead, ask around, I will wait.

I pay ZERO for my telephone services. I'm disabled and used my lifeline benefit to get a free cell phone, via reachoutwireless, that includes 60 minutes per month. I use about 10 minutes each month and the unused minutes DO roll over. I have a Google Voice number that I give out to everyone so they can leave messages for me. But then, the only people who ever call are Doctor's offices reminding me of appointments.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

EllisDees (268037) | about 4 years ago | (#33919302)

T-mobile prepaid with no data plan and I pay about $15 a month on average.

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33917216)

Since Libertarianism gained credibility around here. I think this has more to do with geeks and our wireless toys. It's not particularly useful to have an iPhone if you don't have a carrier. Although, you can use a Nexus One completely without carrier if you wish. But that basically makes it a very expensive PDA/Skype client.

Android pod touch? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33918986)

It's not particularly useful to have an iPhone if you don't have a carrier.

Then explain the iPod touch and its App Store. What's the closest Android counterpart to iPod touch?

Re:Where's the technology? (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 4 years ago | (#33917220)

Let me remind you that Slashdot carries "news for nerds, stuff that matters" a category in which I believe this story falls.

Huh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917272)

Cell phones and mobile networks are technology. They are some of the most complicated consumer technology we have today, in fact. Anything and everything relating to such technology is surely fair game here at Slashdot, even if it involves the companies who provide the technology, or the consumers who use it. After all, they're the ones who drive the technological developments.

Just ban "forced arbitration" (5, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | about 4 years ago | (#33917172)

They should ban forced arbitration clauses in any one-sided contract including credit cards, telecommunications service, cable service and utility service.

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (1)

ancient_kings (1000970) | about 4 years ago | (#33917624)

You forgot about job applications and "agreements"?

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918864)

How come when you propose, for example, to ban mandatory arbitration agreements in employment contracts conservatives are all up in arms about your right to just work somewhere else if you don't like it? Yet, when they start working somewhere with mandatory union dues they suddenly become all indignant about the inherent unfairness of requiring someone to pay union dues as a condition of employment? I always want to ask them, "what happened to your 'go work somewhere else' attitude?"

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (5, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 years ago | (#33917780)

and employment contracts!

those are even worse and we all have a lot more to lose on those.

want to work for another company? is it related to what you do now? there is probably a 'no compete' clause that is actually illegal in your state and yet still prominently listed in your contract.

cell phones affect 'the masses' and the worst that happens is you lose your phone and get upset. its a problem but its not 'americas biggest problem' right now. not saying employment is, either, but its FAR more life damaging if your company wants to put the screws to you than some stupid cell phone toy gadget. you NEED your job (or a job) to live. no one NEEDS cellphones, those are toys for the rich (even though every single commercial tries to convince you that 'everyone needs a cellphone'). I lived decades and decades without carry a portable phone. its NOT needed!

but jobs, those are needed.

forced arb. in employment contracts are far more evil an than any cellphone co.

and nothing is being done about the state of employment contracts.

arbitration is evil but why is congress only attacking the cellphone part of the problem?

Hired someone because he picked up (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33919006)

no one NEEDS cellphones, those are toys for the rich

Unless you're competing with a hundred other people for the same position, and your employer picked someone else because someone else picked up the phone for a callback after the callback to your number went to an answering machine.

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917816)

And while we're at it, ban the "if one clause in this contract is found null and void the remainder of the contract is still valid" clause I've been seeing lately. Your punishment for trying to force people to sign away rights you legally cant should be that you lose your entire contract. Otherwise why not just include clauses you know can nto be enforced just to control people who would never fight it?

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (1)

schwit1 (797399) | about 4 years ago | (#33917830)

Is forced arbitration bad if both sides have equal say in the arbitration process?

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (1)

phorm (591458) | about 4 years ago | (#33918790)

It's often not just "forced arbitration", but "arbitration in state X"... so there's some expensive travel involved too. On top of that, the carrier is going to try and find an arbitrator who commonly favors its side, so you're pretty much screwed.

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918866)

The problem with arbitration is that they tend not to be fair to the consumer. Why do you think that many businesses prefer to use them. The answer is simple, they tend to favor business instead of the consumer. If an arbitrator gets a reputation of not favoring business, he looses his customers (businesses) and business goes to an arbitrator that will favor them.. That's why consumers need the option to take their case to a court of law.

Arbitration in which state? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33919018)

Is forced arbitration bad if both sides have equal say in the arbitration process?

The sides rarely have equal say. For example, the larger party often reserves the right to choose the state in which arbitration happens.

Re:Just ban "forced arbitration" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918242)

Banning really isn't the right approach. If they *ban* it, they'll put the clause in anyway for two reasons:
    1) They'll hope you don't know the law and they can trick you into it
    2) They'll lie about the law to try to trick you or your lawyer into it (and lawyers can and are tricked)
    3) They'll put it in with a separability clause, hoping that the law gets changed over the course of your contract and the arbitration terms will come back into dispute.

If you *really* want to stop people from doing things, you've got to specify penalties. If congress wrote a law that "all contracts signed after November 1, 2010 with that specify mandatory arbitration" shall be found in favor of the purchaser of services in event of any dispute" (or something in proper jargon), *THEN* you would see actual changes.

Otherwise even if they outlaw it, the terms will still be there--and "just" unenforceable. If you can get a knowledgeable judge. And a knowledgeable lawyer. And can afford them both...

Gawd dahyum theeeze gosh durned Demucrats! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917186)

Fawk im from the south, alabama to be exact an i dun had enuff of theeze dang anti-merikun demucrats. aint they ever hear bout merkun freedums? yea mammys in the hoptial in arkansas gettin her cancer treetment and we aint shouldnt pay for that cuz she needs meds and treetments but fawk why cant these demucrats be respectin amerkun freedom? my grandpappy fight real hard in germany gainst hitler back in wurld wor 2 then fought in tha pacific too so that amerkun companies could have amerkun freedom and it aint be up to no demucrats to be tellin them who they can soo and who they cant soo! fawk if i be makin calls to mammy in the hopital on my sell phone than dahyum i shuld be payin lots o cash cuz it costs lots of moneys for the sell phone company to make talk into air waves n shit so it go from alabama to arkansas. thats a long drive so them sell phone companies best be chargin us a lot cuz they is workin hard and workin smart. fawkin demucrats tellin them sell phone companies they aint working hard. WHUT THE FAWK IS HAPPENIN TO MY AMERKA?

Re:Gawd dahyum theeeze gosh durned Demucrats! (0, Flamebait)

gagol (583737) | about 4 years ago | (#33917244)

People got so illeterate they cannot read/understand a contract before signing it.

Re:Gawd dahyum theeeze gosh durned Demucrats! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917348)

Funny thing happened when I was buying my house, and went to my lawyer's office to sign all the paperwork. I was reading each of the 8 or 12 (don't remember anymore) documents that were several pages long when he made it clear; he didn't want me to do that. It was taking up too much of his valuable time. So I signed them all from that point on and just took his explanation for what they were. (I'm guessing this is the same guy that might say things like "you signed a contract you didn't read!")

I'm assuming you read (and understand) your cell phone contract. I actually did and I saw the part where no law suit could be filed - only arbitration. I natuarally assumed I could go to a comsumer group somewhere if I really had an issue. Probably not true, but I calm myself by believing it - otherwise I wouldn't have a cell phone. Hvae you read that contract? It's so one sided it isn't funny.

I'm one of those weirdo's who things the government should own infrastructure items (like airports and railway lines etc.) and private industry should pay lease fees to use them as part of their business model. Pretty crazy I know, but I believe it would open the door to more/better competition.
Crazy me.
Ok, I'm going to shut up now.

ooh ooh can it be removed form job contracts next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917188)

Forced arbitration is f*cking everywhere. Can we have it removed from employment contacts next?

And having worked for the mobile phone company that has said forced arbitration, that was the favorite cause to beat customers around with when they say lawsuit. Not that anyone in customer care actually had any idea what the difference was between a lawsuit and arbitration was, just that 'we win automatically.'

Re:ooh ooh can it be removed form job contracts ne (3, Informative)

DRJlaw (946416) | about 4 years ago | (#33917382)

And having worked for the mobile phone company that has said forced arbitration, that was the favorite cause to beat customers around with when they say lawsuit. Not that anyone in customer care actually had any idea what the difference was between a lawsuit and arbitration was, just that 'we win automatically.'

There's nothing inherently wrong with mandatory arbitration -- it is a cheaper way to resolve a dispute than going to court. However, like all decisions, even one made by a judge or jury, the decisionmakers have inbuilt biases and/or philosophies (I have no desire to argue over semantics, thank you very much).

The problem with mass arbitration is that the ordinally sensible rules of arbitration are susceptible to gamesmanship, and the repeat player, i.e., in these cases the phone companies, have superior information that permits them to shift the odds of a favorable decision substantially towards them.

In normal binding arbitration, each side has some ability to shape the arbitrator by objecting to the randomly assigned arbitrator (if there is a single arbitrator), or some of the members of the panel (if there is a panel of 3, the usual but less common alternative).

Joe Schmoe may have been to arbitration once before in his life. He has no reason to object to an arbitrator that he doesn't know from Adam. MegaCorp keeps records of all its arbitration results. It knows that Arbitrator X rules against it in some non-trivial percentage of the cases before him/her. It objects in the hope of pulling another Arbitrator who is more favorable to it. Arbitrator X does not get paid for being an arbitrator in that case. Lather, rinse, and repeat. On average, the panels can be shifted to be more favorable to MegaCorp by strategic objection (object if record is unfavorable, do not if record is favorable), and Arbitrator X is not making nearly as good of a living as Arbitrator Y because he/she keeps getting removed from potential arbitrations. Arbitrator Y is making a good living due to a good record. You do not need to assign 'evil' motives to Arbitrator Y -- the pool of arbitrators will naturally enrich with those who are philosophically favorable to MegaCorp.

And that, my friends, is why one never ever agrees to binding arbitration involving a repeat player who is permitted to object without cause. Of course, if you are facing a take-it-or-leave-it situation where the practice pervades an entire industry, then you need to turn to those dirty interventionist liberals (says the generally libertarian lawyer -- individuals have liberties, corporations not so much).

And what's wrong with that? (1)

raehl (609729) | about 4 years ago | (#33917412)

Maybe I don't want to pay higher phone bills to cover the costs of lawsuits from other customers.

Arbitration is less expensive, and more predictable as you're not throwing things in front of juries all the time. That's not to say it hasn't been abused, but how about tweaking the process a bit instead of tossing it completely?

Maybe you can have forced arbitration, but the customer gets to choose the arbiter, the company pays for the arbitrator, and the customer can still bring a lawyer if they want to?

Also make forced arbitration not applicable to class action suits and allow for judicial review, by a judge, but with some deference to the arbitration decision.

strange brew that's also good for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917240)

That would be home made Kombucha.

Arbitration == Corporate Justice (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 4 years ago | (#33917328)

Arbitration is essentially a system of parallel, private courts run by corporations, for corporations and for the express purpose of denying justice and avoiding the laws of the land. It's an absolutely corrupt system and should not be allowed to exist in any form whatsoever. Allowing seemingly innocuous instances of this practice has lead to private companies forcing rape victims to give up their rights [youtube.com] . Corporation employees can abuse people in any way they please and can rely on their own private courts to avoid any reprecussions. Judges support this creeping privatisation of the judiciary as they are rewarded with handsome salaries as the private magistrates of these twisted courts.

Around the time of the Jamie Leigh Jones rape arbitration scandal, I remember speaking with someone in management about arbitration--I live in Ireland. He claimed that the trend in business--magazines, conferences and so on--was pushing arbitration heavily. As the "modern" way of doing business. The conversation sent a chill down my spine. The laws of my country and the people in it were being put in dire jeopardy, our legal protections being replaced right under our noses by this latest innovation in American savagery. At least I live in the EU; I can only imagine what must be occurring in Latin America or indeed the US itself.

Arbitration is lawlessness. It is rule by the powerful over the weak. It's not even a form of order, as arbitration courts have no strict rules, no obligation to consider precedent, no means of appeal, and are not even obliged to publish their rulings, let alone have an open court. The North Koreans have a more enlightened legal system--and again that is not hyperbole. Any society that accepts the rule of such courts has abandoned all pretence of justice and equality and has turned the clock back a thousand years before even the Magna Carta. And no other society should follow them down the path to ruin.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (0, Troll)

ancient_kings (1000970) | about 4 years ago | (#33917654)

Also, please keep in mind that a vast swath of republicans support arbitration.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (0, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919848)

^ Troll.

And no proof to back-up the little "factoid" you pulled out of someplace smelly.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917694)

And, you fail to point out, it is *completely voluntary*.

One is never obligated to enter into a contract requiring arbitration. I solve the problems you mention by not supporting companies that require it in the terms for their services.

Look, people: if someone comes to you and says, "I've got this nice shiny... and you can use it, but in exchange, I want the right to ram a hot poker up your ass", the proper response is, "umm, no thanks". If everyone says "no thanks", soon that company will offer the shiny without the hot poker. But don't bitch if you say, "ooooh, shiny... me wants.... ok, I'll take the poker!" and then you get a hot poker rammed up your ass. It isn't like this wasn't trivially predictable. You are the architect of your own hot poker problems, there.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (2, Insightful)

Phroggy (441) | about 4 years ago | (#33917904)

One is never obligated to enter into a contract requiring arbitration. I solve the problems you mention by not supporting companies that require it in the terms for their services.

That may be technically true, but when one wants to be a normal functioning member of society, sometimes one needs the services provided by companies that have an arbitration clause in their contracts (and there is usually no competitive offer available from another company that does not include a similar clause in their contracts). Furthermore, since most of the public is generally unaware of arbitration and its implications, they're likely to skip over the fine print and just assume that it must be OK, since these contracts are "normal" and everyone else they know has already agreed to something similar.

Free market capitalism depends on an educated and informed populace, and government intervention to prevent anticompetitive practices. When all companies in a market have an arbitration clause in their contracts, the people can't choose an alternative, and they're unaware that they should. It is wholly appropriate for the government to step in.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919906)

>>>When all companies in a market have an arbitration clause in their contracts, the people can't choose an alternative

Bullshit.

You always have a right to drag the father-fuckers at Comcast or Verizon or Sprint into a US court room. Stop spreading misinformation that you don't have that right.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (5, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 4 years ago | (#33918148)

And, you fail to point out, it is *completely voluntary*.

So is any con game. Victims are willingly tricked into deals designed to hurt them. But that's not enough to make it legal, let alone ethical.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 years ago | (#33918278)

That horse is dead. It's not just purified, it's a liquid.

You can feel free to go live naked in a cave congratulating yourself if you want, but many people actually want more out of life.

There's nothing wrong with society simply declaring that jamming a hot poker up someone's ass is illegal and calling it good.

Ummmmm... No (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33918618)

Arbitration is a system for settling disputes easier, with less cost to parties involved, and less weight on the justice system. Doesn't mean it should be used for everything (or perhaps even for most things) but it is useful, and isn't an invention of companies. The government can use arbitrations too. Where I live, any traffic insurance suit under $25,000 goes to arbitration, not court. That is state law, not private companies saying anything. The reason is there's a lot of that little shit that happens. People get in an accident, the insurance of the person at fault pays all the costs, however someone wants more money, hires an ambulance chaser, waits till right before the statute of limitations is up and sues. That small shit gets remanded to arbitration so that a trial doesn't have to happen. It is just the clients, their lawyers, and an arbitrator, which is a neutral lawyer.

At the end of the fairly short proceeding (takes much less time then a trial) the arbitrator will decide how much is owed. If the defendant doesn't like that, they can demand a trial with no negative recourse. That is their right as per the constitution. However if the plaintiff doesn't like it, they can also demand a trial, but should they fail to secure an award larger than what the arbitrator gave by a non trivial amount (20% I believe) they are fined.

The whole point is just to keep costs down. A real trial requires a courtroom to be booked, a judge to be tied up, a jury to be selected, and so on. Arbitration just requires an arbitrator and a meeting in their office.

So I'm not saying it hasn't been abused, however this out and out hate for it is stupid. It is useful for things that don't need to go to court. The real problem is the concept of binding arbitration, saying that the results cannot be appealed to a court period.

Also please note that the KBR case is a bit of an oddity. The reason is that you are dealing with US personal in a country without much of a functioning justice system. That means that the company has to be relied upon to a large degree. In the US itself, this wouldn't be an issue. The rape complaint would be made to the police, who would investigate and prosecute as they saw fit. No agreement would matter, as it is the state itself that handles criminal prosecutions, and they have unquestionable jurisdiction. Also this wouldn't be an issue in a functioning foreign country, like say England. Again the complaint would go to the state (the Crown over there) and handled as a police matter. Doesn't matter if it was Americans involved, that the crime was committed on English soil would mean their courts would have jurisdiction.

The problem was that there was (and really is) no Iraqi justice system to go to. That's why KBR is involved and why the arbitration contract is involved. Not saying it is a good thing, just that you need to recognize it is an edge case, one the laws didn't consider since it is a rather new thing. Had she been raped by KBR employees while they were all in Texas, any agreement with KBR would be irrelevant, the Texas police and courts would investigate and prosecute the case.

Re:Ummmmm... No (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 4 years ago | (#33918810)

The whole point is just to keep costs down.

Yes, and this is done by denying people their rights. It's much cheaper to pay a rent-a-judge to deliver the verdict you'd prefer; I'm not disputing that. But my position is that this is an illegitimate system, and is essentially lawlessness in a pinstriped suit.

Also please note that the KBR case is a bit of an oddity.

It was the purest form of arbitration. The whole rotten system was laid bare for the world to see just how corrupt it really was, and exactly what its true purpose is. There are numerous examples of companies having people signaway their rights with smallprint mines in contracts. It's fraud, and the financial system once again leads the way, with credit card contracts being rife with these crooked mandatory binding arbitration clauses.

The problem was that there was (and really is) no Iraqi justice system to go to.

So where there is no law, we must rely on private industry to make its own. No. Never. Better no law at all than a corporate one--and that's not hyperbole!

Re:Ummmmm... No (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33919230)

No it is NOT done by denying people rights. What part of the "You still have a right to trial," did you see? Also please note in the case I'm talking about this is NOT A CORPORATE MATTER. It is a matter of state law, you know, the same state that runs the courts. It is a cost measure, pure and simple, and preserves rights at the same time. Works well. That doesn't mean all arbitration works well, but it means not all of it is evil.

And no, we don't need no law, we need to deal better with the problems of military contractors. In the case of the military itself there isn't a problem, all members are subject to the UCMJ no matter where they are in the world when on active duty. This is true even when they are in the US. If they are serving at the time and on duty then they are subject to military law, not civilian. However there's nothing like that for PMCs. That is what needs to change. Perhaps just a modified form of the UCMJ, that only applies when not on US soil.

No law is for sure not the answer, we just have to modify laws to deal with the new phenomena. It just wasn't really an issue in the past, in the event of a war, the military ran everything so they handled justice. We now have organizations that aren't like that, and we need to figure out how to police them.

However a bullshit, anti-corporate anti-arbitration rant isn't the answer.

Re:Arbitration == Corporate Justice (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33919872)

>>>private companies forcing rape victims to give up their rights

Nice spin, but you blatantly skipped a crucial piece of information - The rape happened in Iraq, not here at home where US laws apply. No corporation could ever get away with raping a woman on US soil, and then force her to go to arbitration. The US and State Laws would apply.

.

>>>At least I live in the EU; I can only imagine what must be occurring in Latin America or indeed the US itself.

Yeah it's like the Wild West in the US. (rolls eyes) I'm all for hating on corporations, but that doesn't mean it's okay to Lie via omission, or twisting the facts, which is what you are doing. No wonder every time I speak to a European, my compass gradually tips from the "love" to the "anger" part of the scale. The ANTI-american Hatred directed towards us is really growing tiresome (dare I say? racist?).

In California - (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33917406)

  Supreme Court in Armendariz court decided if the contract is procedurally and substantively unconscionable that it could be voided. For it to be procedurally unconscionable the contract is one of adhesion, were one sides superior bargaining power dictates all the rules, and the other party is denied any negotiation power. Substantively when the terms are so one sided they are shock to the conscience. The problem I see here, is that one is not required to enter into the contract, and at any time could remove themselves from the negotiation and go with another carrier. In fact customers have choice to shop around and look around for deals. Though it is based on a sliding scale, where one does not need to rise to a level, while the other one beyond conscionability

Re:In California - (4, Informative)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 years ago | (#33917638)

I'd care MORE about employment contracts and forced arbitration.

note: sorry for the very long post, but its important as it deals with employment in the tech field.

I spent a good month dealing with an asshole company who would not give in on basic simple concepts. they created an employment contract, I rejected many lines in it and asked them to rewrite it. at first they understood that what they were asking for was illegal in california and unenforceable. a week later, their legal 'team' refused to edit even a single line in the employment contract. we tried another tact and gave them our own (I was going thru a middelman at the time) contract which I believed was a lot more fair to both sides. they refused.

this went around and around for over a month. in the end, I walked away, at the advice of pretty much everyone.

cellphones are BS, I can (and do) live well without one. nope, I don't own or carry one (at all). but I do need to have a job and the jobs are coming with 'strings attached' when you read the current crop of contracts.

even if you say 'this is not enforceable in XYZ state' they won't back off.

I learned one thing: when you get an employment offer, say 'thanks!' and then follow it with 'as soon as my lawyer reviews this, I'll get back to you'. non-confrontational but do NOT EVER EVER EVER sign an employment contract (these days) without YOUR legal guy looking it over.

the way it has to work (again, as I learned my lesson) is: my 'guy' will call your guy and they'll talk legal shit to each other. 'where did you go to law school? oh yeah, did you know so and so?' etc etc.

they connect and they review the doc and say 'you don't REALLY think its legal or fair to ask for clause #3, do you?' and it progresses with both lawyers comparing dick sizes (so to speak) and eventually coming to an agreement. what makes this work is that they both know that they know the laws and you can't BS a BSer. that's one key concept. the other is that you have to allow your layer to be the 'bad guy' and you should NEVER come off to the new company as the bad guy. you WANT to sign that contract but your lawyer (the 'bad guy') won't let you. you appear good to the new company but you also do NOT give up your rights.

in the end, the company respects you, you KNOW you have a fair contract and no 'cannot work for competitors for next 10 years' BS clauses in there. your lawyer played good cop/bad cop with you and the company and you get a straight deal.

if you do not do that, dollars to donuts you signed an indentured servant contract and didn't even realize it.

especially NOW when the econ is in the dumps, companies are trying to screw you over with your employment contract. they count on the fact that you are 'desparate' enough to sign anything.

don't object to HR when you are there. smile, thank them and tell them that as soon as your 'guy' checks this over, you'll be happy to sign it. then let your hired guy defend you before you sign that rotton scummy endentured servant agreement.

lesson learned! please use this procedure next time you get an offer letter. I've found that in sofware (my field) almost NO ONE reads or even tries to cross out any lines in their contract. get a lawyer. its not just for 'top execs' anymore. we ALL need those guys to review our docs and fight for us.

(you would not believe the legally unenforceable things in the text of my last contract. it made me and my recruiter pretty sick, I'll tell you.)

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918722)

So what does it cost to hire a lawyer that looks over these things? And how do you choose a good one? Word-of-mouth is not going to work since, as you say, most people don't get a lawyer to look over the contract.

"especially NOW when the econ is in the dumps, companies are trying to screw you over with your employment contract."

I'm a student so I don't know what kind of things to expect. What can they screw you over? Aside from non-competes that you mentioned.

"...you signed an indentured servant contract..."

Excuse me for my ignorance. Could you please be more detailed on the unenforceable things that they would demand?

Re:So (2, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 4 years ago | (#33919186)

I did not pony up for a lawyer the last time around, so I don't know the rates.

I don't care about the rates. its a one-time fee, more or less, for the duration of the job.

some things to worry about: non-compete clauses; sections that talk about what the company 'owns' when it buys you (hint: if you do your own software work on the side or ANY business, the company you are applying for seems to think - these days - that they get to own ALL your efforts. even if not related to the core business!

example from my last contract:


"outside activities: while you render services to the company, you
agree that you will not engage in any other employment, consulting or
other business activity without the prior written consent of the
company"

I was shocked to see that! that was verbatim quotation from my last contract (that I refused to sign).

under that clause, if I sell a house, mow a lawn for a fee, fix a computer for a fee or write C++ code for someone on the weekends, the company gets to own all or any part of that 'work' they want. its absurd! beware of these 'no outside business' bullshit clauses.

and as for picking the right or best lawyer, I'm not sure that matters as much. what DOES matter is that you show up with 'same' so as to balance things. they have a lawyer and you'd be nuts to not have one, as well. they are TRYING to craft a document that expressly and clearly screws you. they hope you won't try to cross out lines. they KNOW what they ask for is technically illegal but they push it anyway.

ie, as engineers, we tend to see the world in a light of honesty. we want our code to be clean and run correctly and have no 'incorrect' things (bugs, malicious code, etc). BUT, big lesson here: much of the rest of the world does not follow our code of ethics. they TRY at every turn to lie, cheat and screw you over. such is the job of HR. I'm not kidding; I wish I was. their job is to create the most absurd contract they can get away with, legal or not. even if you sign it, you are not bound by illegal rules but they get you to THINK you are. quite evil.

the larger co's have optimized this and know what to back down on. the smaller ones are the ones you have to watch out for. they don't tend to have enough experience (as companies) to know what's fair and what they can and cannot get away with. smallers ones are very screwed up and you have to watch them like a hawk. they haven't been burned by their own bad behaviour enough to know better.

simply showing up (over the phone, I mean) wiht a lawyer is sufficient for most of what you are trying to do. its a show of force and also showing them you are SERIOUS about your job but you also realize that things must be done 'in a certain way' and that means if they have high powered lawyers crafting their screw-you document, you at least have to show up with SOMETHING other than your social security card and a pen. they count on the fact that you assume they have legally vetted their own doc. they have, but not in the way you think!

I'm nearly 50 and have been working in software for over 30 yrs. it took me a LONG time to learn this lesson. please benefit from this and save yourself a lot of hassle. no matter what, don't bypass this! you may think the company is above-board but corporate ethics are at an all-time low these days. you'd be surprised what a lawyer ON YOUR SIDE can find fault with, in those scummy employment one-sided contracts.

Dennis Kucinich is in two stories in one day. (1)

Wilson of Waste (1909510) | about 4 years ago | (#33917440)

Here and Here [slashdot.org]

Hrrrrm What is Congress up to (3, Informative)

LouisJBouchard (316266) | about 4 years ago | (#33917454)

The problem is that the Federal Government did not do anything to get arbitration removed by Credit Card issuing banks.

What happened was that the banks used an organization called NAF which was literally funded by the banks. Of course NAF found for the banks 99% of the time. Then the MN Attorney General looking to make a name for herself took NAF to task and NAF folded. That left 2 arbitration forums that were more expensive for the banks and more consumer friendly than NAF.

Some consumers actually read their contract and when they were brought to court for not paying their debts, used the contract against the banks to force the banks into paying 5-figure arbitration fees for 4-figure debts. The court judges in some states started to go along with the consumers. Hence, the banks removed arbitration from their contracts because they could not outright use it to screw over the customer anymore. Of course, the banks have a 98% success rate in court but that is because people do not answer the cases when summoned and even if they do answer, most answer "I cannot afford to pay".

Do a search on credit debt collection boards and you will find what I mean about the above.

So, since congress did not remove the arbitration clauses, why are they saying they did. Are they trying to turn this into something like the Providian case where they OCC entered at the last minute then turned around and said that state AGs cannot take banks to court for violations using that case as a success (again, look up Providian Credit Card Case)? I wonder if they are trying to protect the cell phone companies rather than the consumers.

Re:Hrrrrm What is Congress up to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33918260)

imho This should be a +4 , not a 2.

Someone please review this decision.

...in Canada (1)

Jessified (1150003) | about 4 years ago | (#33918290)

Forced arbitration is already unenforceable in provinces such BC and Ontario. Why don't they just bury in the contract that you forfeit your first born in the event of a dispute. Contract language needs limits, market forces alone are insufficient.

It's About Corruption (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 4 years ago | (#33918532)

Normally the Constitution is taken to mean that a person maintains their rights even when they do not want those rights. The expectation of the right to trial by jury is normal. The notion that one can sign away one's right to the protections of the justice system holds no water at all and has only been tolerated because the big money players wanted it in place.The worm has turned.

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