Saturday, August 30, 2008

AT&T's Attempt to Take Away Consumer's Rights Denied

Court says AT&T can't force arbitration

Michael McKee, of East Wenatchee, filed a class-action suit against AT&T, alleging it wrongly charged him and others for city utility surcharges and usurious late fees. McKee didn't think it was fair that he got charged a city-utility fee even though he lived outside city limits. Though the charges were small -- no more than $2 in any given month -- he noted that it added up after many years and many customers.

So McKee took his case to court. Meanwhile, AT&T argued that the dispute should be settled through arbitration, noting that McKee agreed to mandatory arbitration when he signed up for service in 2002. Such arbitration clauses are ubiquitous, and often consumers must agree to them as a condition of accepting a credit card, a cell phone or other services.

A Chelan County Superior Court found the dispute-resolution provision of AT&T's Consumer Services Agreement "unconscionable" and denied AT&T's motion to compel arbitration. AT&T appealed. On Thursday, in an unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling. Justice Tom Chambers concludes:

A&T's Consumer Services Agreement is substantively unconscionable and therefore unenforceable to the extent that it purports to waive the right to class actions, require confidentiality, shorten the Washington Consumer Protection Act statute of limitations, and limit availability of attorney fees.

We emphasize that these provisions have nothing to do with arbitration. Arbitrators supervise class actions, conduct open hearings, apply appropriate statutes of limitations, and award compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees, where appropriate. Courts will not be easily deceived by attempts to unilaterally strip away consumer protections and remedies by efforts to cloak the waiver of important rights under an arbitration clause.

via: AT&T Busted For Fine Print Trickery

Many companies have gotten more aggressive about trying to claim rights that don't exist in documents they force on customers. Just because a company says something does not make it so. Often states (like in this case) do not allow companies to operate and make wild claims. You can't sell unsafe products and just say, by walking into our store you acknowledge that anything you sell we take no responsibility for, you should test everything for suitability and safety, they may or may not comply with local laws on safe electrical equipment, the food was not cared for as required by law...

Related: iPhone + AT&T = Yikes - Bad Customer Service Examples :-( - Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card - Why is Customer Service So Bad?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Who found Online Spreadsheet Evidence of Chinese Gymnast's Age?

I have read several online sources that state a computer security consultant found evidence of spreadsheets on Chinese gymnasts age in Google cache and Baidu cache: Hack the Olympics! - How hacker found proof of He Kexin's age - International Olympic Committee launches probe into He Kexin's age. But this AP report claims that AP found them (AP link with the quote).

Earlier this month, the AP found registration lists previously posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Sport of China that showed both He and Yang were too young to compete. He was born Jan. 1, 1994, according to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 registration lists. Yang was born Aug. 26, 1993, according to the 2004, 2005 and 2006 registration lists. In the 2007 registration list, however, her birthday has changed to Aug. 26, 1992.

Yes, you can have someone tell you where to look and then say you found... However, this is a pretty misleading way to report the news. It seems obvious AP is reporting that they are the source of the discovery not just that they confirmed what someone else found themselves. Is AP actually the source for the discovery? If so, that is fine. If not, that is very poor reporting, it seems to me.

In trying to look into this it seems the New York Times may have reported on this before but does not state the source of their evidence, but it seems likely they had this evidence and wrote about it earlier. ABC news seems to report the same thing earlier. It is interesting none of the "mainstream press" seem to source online documents while bloggers most often provide links directly to what they quote and reference.

Other news sites are printing the AP story with that wording (including the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, ESPN, NBC Olympic site and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette - Google News finds several AP stories with that quote). Using that wording would put the credibility of their organization behind stating it in this way. If they did just confirm what was discovered by others they seem to be reducing their credibility even more - after their recent attempts to restrict legal quoting of their articles by bloggers. A news site trying to make themselves seem like the discoverers of news that in fact was discovered by someone else is really calling into question their integrity.

I do support bloggers not quoting AP stories, in general. But in this case it is specifically the AP's story that is the issue. Here is another AP story claiming AP found the documents from August 14th.

I did not find any stories, by anyone other than AP, that claims (or implies) that AP discovered this evidence.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Media Company Fails at Web Again

Video has been supported on the web for years. Simple, know solutions exist. What does NBC do for the Olympics? Setup some complex solution that fails :(

Video is currently supported on the following browsers:

* Internet Explorer 6, 7 for Windows
(Vista, XP SP2 or greater and 2003)
* Firefox 1.5, 2, 3 for Windows
(Vista, XP SP2 or greater and 2003)
* Firefox 1.5, 2, 3 for Mac
(OS 10.4.8 or greater, Intel only)
* Safari 2 & 3 for Mac
(OS 10.4.8 or greater, Intel only)

How about just use solutions that are not operating system and browser dependent. It is like these people don't know that the web technology provides methods to just distribute your content and let the user access it however they want.

Related: What Kind of Management Does This? - VIP?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Juror Questions Court

What right do you have to prosecute this defendant?

Thomas R. Eddlem sent a note to US District Court Judge William G. Young asking: "Where – if two-thirds of both houses of congress voted in 1919 that it was necessary to amend the constitution to give congress the power to ban mere possession of a substance (prohibition of alcohol in that case) – is the constitutional grant of authority to ban mere possession of cocaine today?"
No less an authority than Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas raised a similar concern in his dissent in Gonzales v. Raich:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything–and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.
Really, there's every reason to recognize the jury's right to exercise at least as much mercy as the other participants in the criminal justice system -- especially given their role as the last check on the power of the state. That right was not just recognized, but celebrated by the founders. John Adams, the nation's second president, said it is the juror's "duty ... to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court."

Related: The Jury Decides What is Illegal - Freedom Increasingly at Risk - Photographers are not a Threat -

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More SWAT Failures

How many abuses of power does it take before someone stops this ridicules behavior? Innocent people should not have their home invaded by police over and over and over and over and over again. It is not acceptable to make this error. It is not acceptable to shoot innocent people as you invade their house. Why do we continue to allow such invasions of innocent American's homes?

Buffalo Police batter their way into wrong house

Pennyamon alleges that after wrongly breaking into her apartment, police proceeded to strike her epileptic husband in the head with the butt end of a shotgun and point shotguns at her young children before admitting their mistake and then raiding the right apartment.

She says she’s left with a broken door, an injured husband, jittery children and — what bothers her most — still no apology from police.

"They know they did something wrong and they were still ignorant," said the 29-year-old Pennyamon. "At first, I just wanted an apology. Now, because they want[ed] to be ignorant and rude, I have to take it to the next level."

She filed a report with the department’s Professional Standards Division and also contacted Mayor Byron W. Brown about the incident. Pennyamon said Friday evening she also has retained a lawyer and intends to pursue legal action.

Police brass acknowledge that officers with the Mobile Response and Narcotics units entered the wrong apartment. "As the officers were in the lower apartment, one of the detectives reviewed the search warrant application and realized it was for the upper [apartment]," said Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives.

"It appears to be an honest mistake and we certainly apologize to all involved," added Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman.

This is completely unacceptable. What has happened to the land of the free? When your home is not safe from violent government assault that is not acceptable.

Related: Systemic Failure of SWAT Raids - Failure to Address Systemic SWAT Raid Failures - Shot in the dark - FBI to Review Raid That Killed Mayor's Dogs - Why give awards in botched police raid - Tired of Incompetent Government Harassment

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Selling Computer Games and Applications

Great article on piracy, computer games, payment and pricing, customer focus... Talking To 'Pirates':

A few days ago I posted a simple question on my blog. "Why do people pirate my games?". It was an honest attempt to get real answers to an important question... The response was massive. This is what I found:
So it was all very worthwhile, for me. I don't think the whole exercise will have much effect on the wider industry. Doubtless there will be more FPS games requiring mainframes to run them, more games with securom, games with no demos, or games with all glitz and no gameplay. I wish this wasn't the case, and that the devs could listen more to their potential customers, and that the pirates could listen more to the devs rather than abusing them. I don't think that's going to happen.
But I gave it a go, and I know my games will be better as a result. I'll never make millions from them, but I think now I know more about why pirates do what they do, I'll be in a better position to keep doing what I wanted, which is making games for the PC.
Thanks for reading.

Related: So You Want to be a Computer Game Programmer - A Career in Computer Programming - Computer Game and Real World Education

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Bad Customer Service

Response to: Comcast Called Me Back In Regards To My Post About My Outrageous Bill

I wouldn't agree everyone tries to rip you off. There are a few companies that get a huge portion of the complaints: Comcast, Verizon, several banks... You don't hear huge numbers people complaining about being ripped off by Southwest Airlines, Geico, Crutchfield, Toyota... Some companies chose to provide value to customers and take some profit in doing so. Others continually seek to rip off customers at every turn. Thankfully the internet is providing a medium to publicize those companies that do so.

Consumerist, is a great site, doing what it can to counter some of the horrible service

Related: Customer Service is Important - Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card - Is Poor Service the Industry Standard?