Knology, Inc., a leading provider of interactive communications and entertainment services in the Southeast, recently sent its customers a rather interesting notice regarding arbitration. While Knology is forcing customers to give up their right to a jury trial against Knology if it does wrong, the company has retained its constitutional right to a jury trial for actions by Knology against its customers. The exact language reads as follows:
It is important that you read this section carefully. It provides for resolution of disputes (whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation, or any other legal or equitable theory) through final and binding arbitration before a single neutral arbitrator instead of in a court by a judge or jury or through a class action. All disputes arising out of or relating to this agreement (other than actions for the collection of debts you owe us) including, without limitation, any dispute based on any service or advertising of the services related thereto, shall be resolved by final and binding arbitration, which shall be governed by the Federal ArbitrationAact (FAA), 9 U.S.C. § 1-16.
In other words, Knology customers can’t sue Knology, but Knology can sue the customers. Now that’s real fairness! If arbitration is so fair, then why does Knology want the right to use the court system against its customers?
The notice also includes a limitation on the arbitrators. It states in the notice that an arbitrator may not award either punitive or consequential damages or attorney’s fees. Therefore, no matter how bad Knology’s conduct happens to be, whether it’s intentional and specifically designed to cheat the customers, the company is immune from the awarding of punitive damages as a result of its wrongful conduct. In addition, the notice says that “if we prevail in the arbitration and we show that you acted in bad faith in bringing your claim against us, then we may seek to recover the AM’s fees and a reasonable expense of the arbitrator from you.” To make sure Knology is protected, the company adds a final sentence that makes certain the company retains the right to sue its customers.
This is a clear example that big businesses do not mean what they say when they talk about the fairness and reasonableness of mandatory, binding arbitration. That’s all a bunch of baloney and this sort of thing proves it. What the big corporations want is a playing field that is anything but level. They want the upper hand to prevent individuals from being able to exercise their constitutional right to go to court and seek redress when they are wronged. This is a good example of why binding arbitration clauses should be illegal and banned in consumer contracts. Since we have elections coming up for U.S. Senate and House seats, it would be a good time to let all of the candidates know how you feel.
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