The Fine Print: The Corporate Insurgence

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The following is not legal advice. Please contact Alexander Bachuwa, a New York attorney, if you have a consumer protection question or claim.

Since I began writing The Fine Print series, I have initiated dozens of claims which have produced encouraging results for aggrieved claimants. (see The Results Are In! and The Successful Fight Against A Citi Shutdown)

In a case against Dell for $200 in unpaid gift cards which were supposed to be credited with the purchase of a television, I settled the claim for a substantially larger amount. Dell insisted on a strict confidentiality agreement because, to quote opposing counsel, “We don’t want to end up on that blog of yours.” I refused.

The element of surprise is over. Corporations have taken note of my mission to fight on behalf of consumers and have resorted to urban warfare to thwart my efforts. It was not enough that a company would insist on a grace period of 30 to 45 days before it would engage in the arbitration process, something that I refuse to do. Now, corporations are bending, stretching, and in some instances, ignoring the rules all together to avoid the arbitration process entirely.

In a case against a wireless carrier, customer support contacted my client directly even though she knew the client had legal counsel and presented him with a modest settlement offer. Confused as to why he was receiving a call from the company, my client informed of the situation. We were able to settle the matter for a considerably higher amount.

In another matter where credit cards were shut down without notice, an attorney for Citi insinuated that the controlling law for the claim was South Dakota, the institution’s headquarters, and that the protections that my clients had under their state law were not available to them. That is patently false.

On the other extreme, some respondents are resorting to bullying. In a claim against Expedia for an incorrectly charged bag fee, the respondent tried to intimidate me by threatening to seek attorney fees if I was not successful in proving my claim. That claim, like the one against Dell, settled for far more than the cost of a checked bag.

As I file more claims and as I highlight more examples of the Consumer Striking Back, I will not be surprised when the traditional rules of engagement are cast aside and this becomes an all out street brawl. In preparation, I have begun to collaborate with another attorney who is equally motivated to fight this uphill battle and class-action attorneys who wait in earnest for an opening should corporations not follow the rules for the game they invented.

We may be out-manned and outgunned in the struggle to protect consumers against Corporate Mischief, but capitulating no matter what insurgent tactics are utilized, is something that I refuse to do.

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