T-Mobile screwed over millions of customers when it collected their geolocation data and sold it to third parties without their consent. Now, two of these customers are trying to pursue a class-action lawsuit against the company for the shady practice, but the telecom giant is using another shady practice to force them to settle their dispute behind closed doors.
On Monday, T-Mobile filed a motion to compel the plaintiffs into arbitration, which would keep the complaint out of a public courtroom. See, when you sign a contract or agree to a company’s terms of service with a forced arbitration clause, you are waiving your right to a trial by jury and oftentimes to pursue a class-action lawsuit at all. Settling a dispute in arbitration means having it heard by a third party behind closed doors. And an arbitration clause is buried in T-Mobile’s fine print.
T-Mobile’s terms of service state that customers do have the option to opt out of arbitration, which is buried within the agreement and states that they “must either complete the opt out form on this website or call toll-free 1-866-323-4405 and provide the information requested.” They also only have 30 days to do so after they have activated their service. After that brief time period, users are no longer eligible to opt out.
The plaintiffs, Shawnay Ray and Kantice Joyner of Maryland, filed the class-action complaint against T-Mobile in May. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T were all also hit with lawsuits that same month for selling customer location data. “The telecommunications carriers are the beginning of a dizzying chain of data selling, where data goes from company to company, and ultimately ends up in the hands of literally anybody who is looking,” the complaint against T-Mobile states. The comment is largely referring to a Vice investigation that found that the phone carriers sold real-time location data to middlemen and that this data sometimes eventually ended up with bounty hunters.