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Class actions

January 27th, 2010 (09:23 am)

I hate getting notifications that I'm eligible for some class action payout that I don't agree with. It doesn't happen often, but yesterday I got two.

One was a suit against AT&T, for having flat-rate early termination fees. (They switched to prorated, but the suit is about what they did before that.) I gather the theory was that an ETF is reasonable only because the carrier is trying to recoup some of the money they spent on subsidizing your phone; if you cancel after 23 months, they've gotten their money back, and keeping a full-sized ETF is just an anticompetitive tactic.

I think this one is bogus. It was a reasonable contract—the subsidy on most cellphones is more than the ETF, and, when you leave, you walk away still owning the cellphone. AT&T tried to make that worthless, by locking down their phones so you couldn't use them elsewhere; but it was often possible to get them unlocked. (This is harder with current smartphones, but was much easier during most of the 10 years the lawsuit covers.)

The other one was even worse: a suit against 1-800-Flowers for charging a shipping fee on flowers delivered by a local florist—the claim is that the delivery fee was built into the price of the merchandise, so charging shipping was misleading. This is just garbage. When I ordered from them, I knew that I was paying extra for convenience; that's why the price of the flowers was higher than if I'd walked into a store. Then I paid for delivery.

I'm not going to claim either of these. For the 1-800-Flowers settlement, it's an easy decision: it's a $10 coupon, and $10 off is not going to be enough to be cheaper than dealing with a florist directly. For AT&T, I thought about it briefly, because there's a twist: AT&T's payout is fixed at $18M, to be split among the claimants (after the attorneys take their share, up to $6M); so they won't actually take any more damage if I claim. But it's just wrong.


Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: January 27th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)

Clarification: the judge hasn't ruled in either of these cases.

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