Liza Concepcion was a victim of consumer fraud by AT&T.
The company promised her a free cell phone if she signed up for its wireless service. Then they charged her sales tax on the “free” phone. Concepcion couldn’t afford to sue; just talking to a lawyer would have cost her more than she was cheated out of. However, Concepcion was only one of thousands that AT&T had fooled. Collectively, they had been defrauded of millions. The law firm of Hulett Harper Stewart filed a class action on behalf of all the victims.
Then Concepcion entered a hall of mirrors. First, she was told that her contract with AT&T required her to take her claim to arbitration. That didn’t seem so bad; the arbitration system looked fair and would probably be faster than going to court.
Then the second shoe dropped. Her contract with AT&T also said that she couldn’t bring a class action suit in arbitration. Since this would mean no one could sue, her lawyers challenged the contract in court. When the court ruled against them, they appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
On April 27, 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the AT&T contract. Liza Concepcion and the other victims were caught in a catch-22 and AT&T was home free. Now that other corporations are aware of this new “get out of jail free” card, we can be sure they’ll use it again.