No Class Action Over Sprint Roaming Charges

     (CN) – Claims that Sprint Nextel improperly charges bogus roaming fees will head to arbitration, the 11th Circuit ruled, declining to find the class action waiver unconscionable.
     James Pendergast brought a federal class action against Sprint Nextel, Sprint Solutions and Sprint Spectrum in 2008 for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA). The seven-year Sprint client estimated his individual damages at about $20.
     Pointing to a 2007 amendment to its Terms and Conditions, however, Sprint said that clients had to arbitrate all disputes except for those within small claims court jurisdiction.
     After the Southern District of Florida compelled arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, Pendergast told the Atlanta-based federal appeals court that the class action waiver is unconscionable, and that this also dooms the arbitration clause.
     In the meantime, the Supreme Court defended arbitration clauses against bans enacted by some states in Concepcion v. AT&T Corp.
     Citing this case and Cruz v. Cingular Wireless, its own decision adopting Concepcion, the 11th Circuit affirmed Monday.
     “Resolution of Pendergast’s appeal requires only a straightforward application of Concepcion and Cruz,” Judge Frank Hull wrote for a three-member panel. “We need not decide whether the class action waiver here is unconscionable under Florida law or if it frustrates the remedial purposes of the FDUTPA, because to the extent Florida law would invalidate the class action waiver, it would still be preempted by the FAA [Federal Arbitration Act].
     “Pendergast’s rationales for invalidity of the class action waiver under Florida unconscionability doctrine and the FDUTPA are essentially the same. Pendergast contends the class action waiver precludes him and other Sprint customers from obtaining meaningful relief because their claims cannot, as a practical matter, be pursued individually.”
     He added: “We conclude that we need not reach the questions of whether Florida law would invalidate the class action waiver in the parties’ contract because, to the extent it does, it would be preempted by the FAA. Under Concepcion, both the class action waiver and the arbitration clause must be enforced according to their terms.”

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