Q: What can be done if a company ignores the terms and conditions of a service contract?
I am disputing a bill for the installation of a new water heater in our home.
We had a service agreement with the oil delivery company and I believe that the service agreement covered the cost of the installation.
There is a section in the "General Terms and Conditions" of the service agreement titled "Arbitration of Disputes" and it reads:
"Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract or any breach thereof shall be settled by binding arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its Consumer Arbitration Rules." "Notwithstanding the forgoing, any controversy or claim may be submitted by either Buyer or Seller to a small claims court having jurisdiction of the controversy or claim."
However, I recently received a "Consumer Credit Transaction" summons, from the company's attorneys, which was filed in a District court in Hauppauge, NY.
Can they just ignore the terms and conditions of the service agreement with impunity?
A: Regardless of the arbitration clause or your opinion, you will need to "answer" the summons to avoid default judgement. You can bring up the contractual dispute clause in the answer (and later in the proceeding), but you need to respond first. If you are going to defend yourself as a pro se litigant, you can find a sample answer form on nycourts.gov. You want to act quickly since you won't have a lot of time to answer, serve the plaintiff's lawyer and file it with the court. Wish you the best.
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