A New York law firm, Bursor & Fisher, has filed arbitration against ATT in a bid to prevent the purchase of T-Mobile. The eleven separate cases come on behalf of ATT custromers who claim that the acquisition violates the Clayton Antitrust Act and will negatively affect consumers.
The merger still needs to make it through the Department of Justice and FCC gauntlets, but attorney Steve Brusor sees this as one more measure that can be taken to prevent it:
“Government enforcement is an important part of the antitrust laws, but the Clayton Act also permits private parties who may be adversely affected to challenge a proposed merger. That means any AT&T cellphone, data or iPad customer who will suffer higher prices and diminished service because of this merger can sue to stop it from happening.”
His firm has created a website, in hopes of finding more ATT users who want to join the fight. The strategy is simple, yet brilliant. Ma Bell requires customers to agree to a contract that prohibits them from filing class-action lawsuits, instead forcing them into mediated arbitration, at ATT's expense nonetheless. The plan is to bring as many arbitration cases against ATT as possible, in hopes of getting at least one mediator to rule in favor of the plaintiff. If that happens, Bursor thinks there is a strong case to shoot down the deal.
Despite this, as well as the joint efforts of consumer advocate groups and wireless carriers like Sprint, it's still an uphill battle. ATT is a huge company and has gained the support of countless politicians, lobbyists and other corporations. And although ATT was not available to comment on the arbitration cases directly, they seemed confident during an earnings call yesterday that the deal would go through as early as Q1 2012.