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Haverford class action firm Chimicles & Tikellis received a victory out of a federal court in Michigan last week in the beginning stages of its class action suit against cellular services provider T-Mobile USA. The firm’s client, Chun Wing Wong, is the only known plaintiff of a yet-to-be certified class that is suing T-Mobile for overcharging customers due to a billing system error that has yet to be resolved. Steven A. Schwartz of Chimicles & Tikellis and E. Powell Miller of Miller Shea in Michigan argued against moving the case to arbitration. T-Mobile had an arbitration provision in its contract, and within that provision, the company added a class action waiver that would not allow class actions at arbitration, according to court documents. While there were a number of cases supporting both sides in Wong v. T-Mobile USA, Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of Michigan’s Eastern District found that the proposed class in this case would lose the ability to vindicate its statutory rights under Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act if the case went to arbitration. Edmunds denied T-Mobile’s motion to compel arbitration “[b]ecause the contract prohibits class-wide arbitration.” The suit, which has yet to reach the point of certifying the class, is based upon one T-Mobile customer’s problem with excess charges made by the company even though he paid an additional $4.99 per month for a plan that should have covered those charges for Web and e-mail use, according to court documents. The company, in writing, admitted to the plaintiff that it had an internal system error that caused the continued excess billing, according to the judge’s order. Wong’s total complaint is for less than $20, but Schwartz said that given T-Mobile’s written admittance that it had an internal problem, there are probably several other people in Wong’s situation. “This is a case where it’s a small amount for individual class members but possibly millions for T-Mobile,” Schwartz said. He said that he would like to get to the merits of the case so that he can determine how much the company overcharged and why the problem hasn’t been fixed. Robert Kaplan of Freidman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman in New York represented T-Mobile. He said he would have to defer comment to T-Mobile, which did not respond.

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