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What a Law Professor Does on a Saturday Afternoon

posted by Bob Lawless

It's Saturday afternoon, and as a law professor I'm spending it in my usual way--reading and rereading the various form contracts to which our household is subject. I was all involved with an engrossing new form describing my rights under section 631 of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, when this caught my attention. The contract directed me to a web page that allows you to opt out of arbitration with Comcast. The hitch is that you have to opt out within 30 days of receiving your contract. You also have to know your Comcast account number.

Because of a transaction between Comcast and Insight Communications, our cable television provider was recently switched to Comcast. I just got my new Comcast contract on Thursday, and I was able to opt out today. The Consumerist was all over this story a year ago, and they have more details, including a scan of the specific contract provisions that give you the opt out rights. If you are in the Midwest and have recently been switched to Comcast, as many of us have, the clock is ticking on your opt-out right.

As a law professor, I am intrigued by Comcast's move to make arbitration more of an agreement between customer and company. This is a useful first step, but the customer's rights still are severely limited by the need to opt out within 30 days of receiving a lengthy form contract. As a customer of Comcast, I appreciate them giving me this choice. Perhaps next we can talk about getting the Big 10 Network added to their basic cable package?

Comments

Query: Would you trade accepting arbitration for the benefit of having the Big 10 network?

Nice to find out how I went wrong and did not become a law prof. If only I had spent weekends reading form contracts!

As to Comcast, I don't think they are doing this for consumer friendly reasons. Their lawyers have likely told them that it will be easier to defend the mandatory arb if they can argue that the guy who is the named plaintiff in the class action could have opted out.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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