I'd like to start off by saying that this is somewhat of a follow-up to a previous question I had asked back in June, 2016. I've continued to struggle with trying to find an agreement that resolves the issue I've been having. In this time, I've fulfilled all the requirements to continue through to arbitration and have been preparing to do so.
My question's focus pertains to the Customer Agreement clause, which explains how the arbitration reward is handled. Highlighted is the specific section:
(6) WE MAY, BUT ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO, MAKE A WRITTEN SETTLEMENT OFFER ANYTIME BEFORE ARBITRATION BEGINS. THE AMOUNT OR TERMS OF ANY SETTLEMENT OFFER MAY NOT BE DISCLOSED TO THE ARBITRATOR UNTIL AFTER THE ARBITRATOR ISSUES AN AWARD ON THE CLAIM. IF YOU DON'T ACCEPT THE OFFER AND THE ARBITRATOR AWARDS YOU AN AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT'S MORE THAN OUR OFFER BUT LESS THAN $5,000, OR IF WE DON'T MAKE YOU AN OFFER, AND THE ARBITRATOR AWARDS YOU ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY BUT LESS THAN $5,000, THEN WE AGREE TO PAY YOU $5,000 INSTEAD OF THE AMOUNT AWARDED. IN THAT CASE WE ALSO AGREE TO PAY ANY REASONABLE ATTORNEYS' FEES AND EXPENSES, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE LAW REQUIRES IT FOR YOUR CASE. IF THE ARBITRATOR AWARDS YOU MORE THAN $5,000, THEN WE WILL PAY YOU THAT AMOUNT.
To my understanding, this clause basically says if the arbitrator offers any amount of money more than what was formally offered by the business, I'll be rewarded a minimum of $5,000. The business has made a few offers, all of which are for account credits with them (and are certainly far too low to accept).
Their exact response when I had asked about how their settlement offer would be paid was as follows:
"This would be a direct financial adjustment to your [Phone Provider] account. You were properly advised that the promotional offers are not a cash value type of offer, but a direct financial adjustment to the account will save you the equivalent amount not having to pay your [Phone Provider] bill until the credit amount has been depleted."
- Since the account credit offers are worth no real cash value, would that mean that any real-money offer made by the arbitrator could/would cause me to win since money certainly gives the impression of actual currency?
- Is there any particular reason why an arbitration clause would floor the reward to such a notable amount? Is this number passing a threshold to prevent other legal grounds from following?
05/17/2017: I went through the arbitration process and was deemed an award of $900.00, along with $52.89 in interest. Both of these are going to be paid in US dollars. However, I'm still under the impression that being paid in US dollars is more "money" than the $1,300 in "non-cash value" credits they had offered prior. I sent them an email requesting they uphold the agreement, but I'm not sure if this is too much of a technicality.
05/30/2017: The business followed up with a statement of "The customer agreement does not address the delivery of the settlement offer, but the amount of it." I'm not sure if that statement is accurate since the clause denotes "money" as the medium, not a generic value. I'm just not sure if this is something that has enough foundation to fight for in another arbitration case or to potentially pursue in court.
03/09/2018: I opened a second arbitration case to contest that the business didn't conform to their customer agreement. My position was that $952.89 was worth more than $1,300 in account credits. I was found in favor and they were required to pay out the minimum value listed in the arbitration clause because account credits have no monetary value (the answer in this question helps explain why that result happened).
04/19/2018: I sent an intent-to-arbitrate letter again stating that I was looking to open a third case because they failed to pay the full amount of money in accordance with the arbitration clause below. The original approach was that they still failed to pay $5,000 each time I won a higher amount than they offered. I structured my claim that they were $5,000 short as I only received two payments, but both should have been raised to $5,000 individually. The other perspective was that they were technically only $952.89 short.
05/10/2018: We came to an agreement of a settlement amount. I am in the process of signing and finally being done with cycling arbitration claims over contract technicalities and oversights. Gathering about ten times the original claim amount was worth it, but it did take about two and a half years.