Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Power of Corporate America Courtesy of the Supreme Court (post #27)

In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad) that corporations have the same rights as a person. Since that time corporations have enjoyed free speech rights with limited liability. More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in getting a candidate elected to federal office (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). Now, just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that consumers are not allowed to bring forward class action lawsuits against corporations.

Here is the background as told by this article:

"The Concepcions, the California couple who filed the case, went to court contending that AT&T misled them when it billed them $30.22 for a cell phone that was supposedly free. Because there was reason to believe the charges were widespread - the carrier said it was simply assessing sales tax for the actual cost of a subsidized phone - their lawyers filed the case as a class action.

AT&T fought them on procedural grounds: It said the Concepcions had no right to be in court at all, because their contract with the carrier required that disputes be resolved via arbitration. And it said they also had no right to claim that other customers were similarly harmed, because the Concepcions' contract with AT&T barred them from joining in a class action - in court or before an arbitrator.

AT&T's solution? Customers who felt wronged could try to get their money back by filing individually for arbitration. And the company touted its unusually consumer-friendly arbitration process, under which a successful claimant could get lawyers' fees and even a bonus award of $7,500 - if the arbitrator found he or she was entitled to more than AT&T's final offer.

Ruling in AT&T's favor, Justice Antonin Scalia said the case turned on a 1925 law, the Federal Arbitration Act, that he said preempted California state law. "Arbitration is a matter of contract," Scalia wrote, "and the FAA requires courts to honor parties' expectations."

What's the problem with Scalia's ruling? Unless Congress intervenes, the court has essentially allowed any company that deals with consumers to mistreat them with impunity. By writing a contract that mandates arbitration and at the same time bars class actions, a company can insulate itself from the only kind of legal challenge - a class action - that can deal with a large number of small-dollar wrongs."

Does this ruling seem fair? How much power should corporations have compared to consumers? Should Congress intervene and pass a law or Constitutional amendment to work around this ruling?

What about the concept of federalism? The court is clearly holding a 1925 federal law supreme over state law. Are you pleased with that?

On another tangent, should federal judges have term limits? Should citizens be allowed to conduct a national referendum to repeal Supreme Court rulings?

Please express your thoughts with civility and respect.


60 comments:

  1. Well, if you agree to the agreement, then don't complain. I know many of us do not read the long form that we sign, but it is legally binding. A contract is an agreement between two parties. AT&T is technically correct. If it is in the agreement, it is in the agreement. Many will say that the agreement is unfair. If so, don't sign it. Maybe you can negotiated it. I doubt it, but don't discard this idea so soon. Why do we think we will not be held accountable for what we say or agree to. Was it wrong for AT&T to charge for a phone that was Free? Yes, but that does not negate your agreement.
    Caleb Newman

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  2. Danielle Smith, Sloan P1May 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    I don't think there is anything wrong with the ruling. Caleb is right; if they didn't want to read the contract, but sign it anyway, they can't complain. Corporations do, and always will, have a lot more power than most consumers. I don't think Congress should intervene and pass a law to work around the ruling because that'd just be contradicting the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act. Although the law is from 1925, I think if it has stayed in tact this long, it should continue to. To be honest, I don't understand why these people felt the need to take the matter this far anyway. It's a $30 phone charge. That's not something the federal courts need to waste their time on.What about the concept of federalism? Yeah, the court is holding a 1925 federal law over state law. Isn't federal law supposed to be the highest law of the nation anyway? This matter is no different. Federal judges shouldn't have term limits. The job is too important in our country to have that many people coming and going. Citizens shouldn't conduct a national referendum to repeal Supreme Court rulings. The Supreme Court is the highest court of our nation and what they say goes. There's absolutely no point to even try going against it, in my opinion.

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  3. I pretty much agree with caleb. if you Agree to the agreement do not complain. An agreement is a contract and it is binding. They have to agree to change the Contract. People should not disregard the process so soon.
    Tori milligan
    Sloan
    Per.3

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  4. Caleb is correct on the matter that if you sign a contract, you are legally bound to it. AT&T is a very large company and well known, if it tries to pull stunts like this on a wide scale, it will hit the media (as you can see, since that's what the blog is about). When things like this get into the media, people will avoid contracting with AT&T. If somebody sues AT&T, it will cost them a very little to pay compensation, but if millions of people stop using AT&T, it will hit them hard. Anyway, as far as the contract goes, I do think that in cases like these, the court can overrule the contract...or atleast request it be rewritten. Consumers can't be expected to know how to proof-read a legal document with precision, so there should be a failsafe in court with professionals who know the law best.

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  5. Consumers do have a responsibility to read any contract that they sign. Companies should not intentionally cheat people out of money, but if a person wants to take an issue to court that was in the contract signed, then the blame is ultimately on them. Companies such as AT&T are large corporations with the ultimate goal to make profit. The government could attempt to put up barriers for these corporations, but the profit made by these big businesses greatly help the economy which so limiting the companies' opportunities could hurt the country as a whole.

    Devin Smith, Mr. Bauer, P.1.

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  6. It doesn't seem fair. Without the consumer, a company is nothing so why mislead its customers when it is only worsening their relationship. But the fact that things like this are in a contract signed by the user, it lies solely on the signee who's mistake shouldn't have to be taken care of by the court system. The U.S. federal system definently has seniority of the state system and although it may not seem fair they can do whatever they like within the boundaries of the constitution.

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  7. Maria Schmidt, Bauer, Per 5May 2, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    As others have said, if there is a contract to be signed it is the job of the consumer to carefully read it before signing. Like Devin said, it isn't right for companies to cheat the consumers, but it is ultimately the consumer's fault for not reading the contract. Like Danielle said, the federal law is the supreme law, so I think the court's ruling is ok. As far as term limits for judges, I have a mixed opinion. It's important for judges not to feel pressure, but at the same time, if the judge abuses his or her power, it's not good. Not sure about that matter....

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  8. A contract is something binding, so the consumer should have read the AT&T contract, even though its completley unrealistic that everyone would read it. The customers signed it, so they are bound to what the contract says. AT&T is in the right here.

    Olivia Palmer
    Bauer 04
    :)

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  9. im not going to restate the brilliant points explained here again. if a contract was signed, it's legally binding, ignore fine print at your own financial peril.

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  10. Emily Staab
    Bauer Per 2

    Everyong has pretty much summed up what I was going to say. If you sign a contract sau=ying you agree to the terms and restrictions of that contract, then you agree to those terms and restrictions. No questions asked. You signed a legally binded contract, deal with it. Just like any other contract, it needs to be honored

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  11. Well, not everyone reads long contracts or whatever but I think it should be fair enough for both of them. If you sign a contract then you have to deal with it cause nobody gonna change that weather you like it or hate it. you still have to pay it off.

    Sania BAcha
    P3 BAUER!

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  12. Dominique Jimenez, Sloan, 5thMay 2, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    i believe they had every right to take AT&T to court. All AT&T are out for is money, what they make the most off of is scamming their customers. &i know from personal experience how they work to get more money than your aware of or more then they tell you your going to be paying for in the begining. So im glad and satisfied with the outcome of the case. AT&T needs to keep their word.

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  13. While it is not necessarily right, corporations have a lot of power. I think the main lesson to be learned here is to READ BEFORE YOU SIGN! While the rule of arbitration and no class action suits may not be fair or ideal, they were still signed and agreed to and therefore legally binding. Based on the circumstances, I think the ruling is fair.

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  14. erick Calderon P.5thMay 2, 2011 at 9:10 PM

    the customer should have read what the contract said, which i highly doubt all of us would read it,but if u signed it u agree with it.

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  15. I think people just need to read any sort of agreement/contract before they sign. The charging was in the agreement so that's their fault that they were not aware of it. Although I dont think its too fair that corporations have same legal rights as a person and now consumers are not allowed to bring forward class action lawsuits against corporations. It's gone alittle too far. But something like not reading the fine print shouldnt be brought to court?
    Adilene Vazquez
    Sloan Period onee

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  16. As many have stated, customers who are stingy about things should learn how to read and understand before signing anything. A contract is a contract. I don't necessarily think that just because of the decision that was made the court has essentially allowed any company that deals with consumers to mistreat them with impunity. The court is clearly holding a 1925 federal law supreme over state law, but I'm indifferent about that. Main point is that the consumer should read whatever he/she signs.

    Chrissy Vue
    Sloan
    Period 3

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  17. Its true when people say that all companies are after is money but thats the point of buisness..to make money! i do think though that the customer should have read the contract before signing it.

    Gerardo Salcido
    Bauer P.5

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  18. They had the right o take AT&T to court ,latly big phone companys such as AT&T Sprint and so on have been caught trying to scam the customers like tell than they are paying this much than 3 bills later the price doubled and they never said anything to you about the price increase

    Thomas Shelton
    P.5
    Mr.Sloan

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  19. I think that the ruling was good because the people did sign the contract. However, i don't understand why someone sued over thirty bucks. Sloan per 1

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  20. T think that if u agree with the agreement that your signed, u should not be complaining. When you signed the agreement your held responsible for any actions that might come next. I also believe that its a pretty low percentage of an individual to win a lawsuit against a corporation, based on the fact that a corporation has more power. Over all, i think that a corporation would not be one with customers.

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  21. I think that people should be more carefull what they are signing. When you sign a contract you are required to pay everything you agreed to. People should have the right to appeal decisions made by the supreme courts. The selection of judges and its terms serve should be keeped the same.
    Jonathan Ramos
    Mr. Bauer
    Per.2

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  22. Joeylee Maimone, Sloan 4
    If someone is going to sign a contract without reading the information in the first place then it's their fault for all the misunderstandings. People are taught how to read for many reasons and obviously they don't know when it's actually a good time to do such a thing.

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  23. Rotceh GonzalezMay 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    I agree that if someone signs a contract then they agree to the terms. Yet, there has to be a balance between how much power corporations get. I think that the contract should not prohibit the couple from being in court. I understand that the corporation has to protect itself in cases of people trying to take advantage of a loophole, but at the same time these type of things should be debatable. If the only way that the couple can get their money back is by asking the people that are going to give it to them , then their claim will definetly be denied. Fo me it was not a matter about whether they signed the contract or not, but whether it was fair for these type of rules to be in the contract.

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  24. The Concepcions should have been more careful when deciding to have AT&T as their cell phone provider. It is their fault that they were charged $30.22 for the phone. On the other hand, corporations should not have more rights than consumers.

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  25. While it seems fair because the contract said the couple couldn't file a class action suit and a contract is legally binding, i dont think that a corporation should be able to take away a persons right to thier day in court. I have mixed feeling whether or not an amendment should be made, but i dont think federal judges should have term limits.

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  26. I don't like the idea of corporations having too much power, but this individual case does seem fair in its decision. I think it's unfair, however, that a corporation can prevent class action lawsuits because that seems like a right that would be important to individuals. I understand that the agreement against class action lawsuits is protecting corporations, but it also gives them a lot of power over consumers. Bauer/ Sloan

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  27. I wouldnt like it that cooporations are going to have too much power. But i think that the customers should of been careful for what they have purchased. and asked before they even bought anything.

    Jaskiran Kaur
    Mr. Bauer
    Government
    Period 2

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  28. There are too many frivolous lawsuits which are bankrupting this country. Scalia’s ruling prevents individuals from suing companies unnecessarily. In that respect, it is absolutely fair.
    (Sloan P.3/Bauer P.4)

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  29. amanda eckroth
    per.1
    sloan
    ya after you sign the contract then the deal is done. and if the person is signing the dick diesnt want to read the whole document then its their fault if they dont accept it

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  30. kayla rodriguez sloan5May 3, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    i agree with some of the previous comments. conusmers should carefully read the contract before signing. of course companies are going to try to cheat the consumer. thats where the consumer needs to outsmart the company and catch any loopholes. judges shouldnt feel pressured but they need to not get a big head and use their power too much

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  31. mallory lemieux mr sloan pd4May 4, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    I agree with the previous people's thoughts that if an individual didn't completely read and understand the contract and signed it then its there fault. Companies are always going to try ans get more money out of customers so they need to be more careful when signing contracts

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  32. I also don't think that corporations should have too much power, but it is the customers fault for the extra charges. As many have already said, they did sign a contract so they have no choice but to complete their part of the deal.
    Victor Alvarez
    Sloan

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  33. gabriela Gomez p.2May 4, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    I don't think taht it's a good idea for corporations to have too much power but that people ahould be more careful when they are purchasing items.

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  34. While I agree that people are legally bound to contracts they are signing and should be more thorough while reading it, big companies such as AT&T shouldnt be misleading to their valued customers..without us there nothing..

    Danielle Barros
    Sloan p.4

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  35. I think AT&T shouldn't have gotten away with that ruling, but I don't think I would have gone to court for $30, if it was more, then most definitely. I don't think it was very fair. One way to fix the problem is to not buy AT&T at all. Consumers should automatically have more power and rights than corporations, because the consumers are what make the corporations so big and successful, without them, corporations will die.

    Melody Morphis
    Mr. Sloan
    Per. 1

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  36. Maria Perez
    Sloan Per.4

    I believe that in this case it was both of of the corporations fault, and the consumers fault. It was the corporations fault for saying that the phone was free and for charging $30 for it. I think that the consumer also had fault in this because they had to sign a contract, and everyone knows that in order for things to work right they need to read everything, carefully before signing. I also think that $30 is not a good reason to go to court, it is more money trying to get a lawyer, and everything else, to go to, and for only $30.

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  37. It's contract, you read it, you do it. Businesses will try thus because they know we're lazy as crap! "Do you agree to the terms blah blah" is the obvious choice. Also, what were the odds they'd pull something like that? This was a wake up call. Now, we know to skim or even read vefore getting ripped off.

    Daniel Ruiz
    Sloan Per5

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  38. I think that it goes either way. It's the consumer's obligation to make sure they know what they're going into, but at the same time, if something comes up that isn't in the contract, or some weird thing happens altogether, the consumer should have the right to challenge a corporation.

    Brian S.
    Per. 4 Sloan

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  39. i think that they were right. if someone signs a contract then your saying that you agree. yes not everyone wants to read that long thing but if you choose to do that then thats their fault for not reading it. the only thing that i would have changed about that is that in the contract theres anything that involves money then the employer should warn the custumer.
    erika oropeza
    mr.sloan
    p.4

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  40. I don't blame the AT&T company, people should know that companies would always be up to something to make good money because that's what all companies do and want. If consumers sign a contract without reading it then it's all on them, they shouldn't have taken this issue to the supreme court if they didn't even read the contract in the first place.

    Karen Villasenor
    Mr.Bauer
    P.2

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  41. I think that this was the consumer and the company's fault. The company said that the phone would be free but then charged the customer the $30, but also the customer should of signed a contract, and if they fully read the contract, then they should of known what would of happened. Usually people know to read a contract before signing it.

    Trista Dowdy
    Sloan per.5

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  42. Well i think that the customer should have seen what they had gotten into any way they the what company's do they do what every they can do in the trickiest way to get money the customers just should have known.

    richard manzo

    sloan
    pr5

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  43. Josh Agans, Bauer P.5May 4, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    i do not believe the company should be betraying their customers. without the customers they would have no business. since there was a contract thought that the customer had to sign, that is their fault. the customer should have read the contract thoroughly and not skimmed through it. if the customer read it carefully, then there wouldnt be a problem now

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  44. Sergio Maldonado, Sloan p.3/Bauer p.4May 4, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    The costumers signed the contract, so legally they must follow the contract they agreed to follow. On the other hand people view this as taking people's rights away because they can no longer sue corporations this way. Although, the corporation won the case, what did consumers lose in the process?

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  45. Ricardo VillalpandoMay 4, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    I also agree that it was the customers fault they should have read what they were signing because when it comes to the company they try to trick in way way but with good back up and since the people singed the company did not suffer only the customer therefore if the customer had paid attention to what was on the cotract there would have that problem

    ricardo villalpando
    pr5.sloan

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  46. i believe that it is perfectly fair. the people should be smart enough to read the contracts befor they get involved and put into a situation like this.
    kimberlie hernandez
    sloan
    p.4

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  47. Emily Geiszler, BauerMay 4, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    This may not seem right, but it is legal. Contracts are legally binding documents and if you choose not to read the entire thing that is your fault. Before attempting to take anything to court, if there is a contract you have signed pertaining to your case you should read it over carefully. If you don't read it, you could miss something important and pay costly legal fees to go nowhere. Federal laws should be upheld over state laws, there really shouldn't be conflicting laws in the first place. Federal judges should not have term limits. If that were to happen their jobs would become more political and they would base their decisions on different criteria.

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  48. Janeiry Balderas, Mr. Sloan, Period 4May 4, 2011 at 11:52 PM

    I believe that what the company did was wrong and they shouldn't be treated with the same rights, mostly if they are able to do more than the people. the judge that had that case did wrong by supporting at&t since people should be given the freedom to make class action lawsuit, yet as mentioned the federal law stood above the state law. really whether we like it or not that is the way it is and really we cant do anything about it. also about judges and they're terms i believe that really they should have term limits, since it seems to much when a judge has almost served his whole life. we can say though that they have experience yet some judges don't seem to learn. yet if people desire any type of change to happen then they must vote and show that they want change in the way that our court system works.

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  49. Jacqueline OlympiusMay 5, 2011 at 12:10 AM

    This ruling does seem fair to me as it was part of a contract but it also seems very, very corrupt. Corporations should not be able to exercise such power. Congress needs to intervene in this situation in order to prevent it from happening again in the future. I am OK with a federal law being held of state law because that's how it should be but I am not OK with what the law itself actually stands for. I do also believe judges should have a set term limit in order to bring about necessary change. I am not too sure about citizens conducting national referendums though as I feel it would happen much too often.

    --Sloan
    AP Econ, Period 3

    P.S. This would've been before midnight if I wasn't forced to open up my laptop to submit my post after it wouldn't go through on my phone after 8590389834 tries.

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  50. Consumer do need to read the contracts, but if they sign a contract and take it to court they should and will lose. Making class action lawsuits against corporations impossible would prevent people who have actual money grievances with a company from getting their concerns addressed legally.

    Sloan Per. 3
    Bauer Per. 4

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  51. Michael Freeman Per 5 SloanMay 5, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    I think that it is shady for a company to pull stunts like that, but that is life. if I was in that position I would probably do the same thing like most of us would. As far as the US people having a veto on the supreme court, I think that is a stupid idea. We have a problem with sticking to are guild lines in this country already. I think it would be contradicting the point of the supreme court if we were to do that.

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  52. I think that the consumer contracts do need to be read. Otherwise it is cheating the customer. It is pretty scummy. This would prevent a lot of anger and suing from the people.

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  53. I dont thin it seems fair because sometimes phone companies actually do charge you for hiden fees that costumers may not even know about until they get the bill. Although i do think that people should read the contract before signing, i think that peopel should have the right to file a lawsuit if they are charged more than they barganed for.

    Clarisa Carrillo
    Sloan
    Per.4

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  54. In my opinion corporations have been having power over consumers, consumers can make calls to complain but when the consumer takes legal action corporations will do anything to keep their money in check.

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  55. haley collins sloan period oneMay 12, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    People need to start paying attention to corporations they bind themselves to. AT&T is one if the largest phone services available in today economy. I don't think intentionally "cheating" people out of money is one of their goals but I do believe making a profit and putting terms in "small print" is something a consumer needs to pay attention to. Obviously if you are paying 60 dollars a month you should take the time out to know where and how this works. My mom personally hates AT&T because they constantly change their word on products.... a new model of phone comes out and it changes their whole aspect on phones. Honestly people should be informed completely before they purchase things.

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  56. well im not really sure about this one but i do think the court should be fair about the laws and follow them especially if its an amendment.

    Aniscia Silva
    SLoan
    per 5

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  57. It's pretty simple. Don't sign something you don't agree with. And if you do then your definitely out of luck. It's ridiculous . And as Emily stated, contracts are legal binding documents and it is the persons resposibilty to read them thoroughly. Simple as that.


    Sloan P|2

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  58. i believe that corporations should be considered a person. The main reason for that is because if there were to be a problem and legal action was taken then they can be charged as a person. If some one signs a contract without looking at it that is their own fault.

    EJ Keller
    Sloan
    Per.4

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  59. A contract is most of the time binding, so the consumer should have read the AT&T contract when they buy something expensive, even though its completely unrealistic that everyone would read the contract. The customers signed it, so they are bound to what the contract says. And for the reason AT&T has the right.
    Stephanie A
    Mr.Sloan
    per.4

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  60. Corporations as a whol geow and fall and sink completely or get back up. That is the general thing though. To be a persOn it about how you do tgar and what happens after. So i dont believe ita good for a corporation to be knows as anperson. Joeliane Muegge sloan period 5

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