Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action alleging that defendants sent unauthorized text messages in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227; California Business and Professions Code 17538.41; and California Business and Professions Code 17200. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that plaintiff has Article III standing under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins because plaintiff established a concrete injury-in-fact. On the merits, the court concluded that the FCC has established no rule that a consumer who gives a phone number to a company has consented to be contacted for any reason. Instead, FCC orders and rulings show that the transactional context matters in determining the scope of a consumer’s consent to contact. In this case, the court held that as a matter of law plaintiff gave prior express consent to receive defendants’ text messages where he gave his cell phone number for the purpose of a gym membership contract. Revocation of consent must be clearly made and express a desire not to be called or texted. The court joined its sister circuits and agreed that the TCPA permits consumers to revoke their prior express consent to be contacted by telephone autodialing systems. Here, the court held that, although consumers may revoke their prior express consent, plaintiff's gym cancellation was not effective in doing so here. Finally, the court concluded that plaintiff lacked standing to bring his claim under the California Business and Professions Code. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Group" on Justia Law

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The Tribal Lending Entities challenged the district court's decision compelling them to comply with the Bureau's civil investigative demands. The court rejected the Tribal Lending Entities' argument that because the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, Title X, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat 1376, defines the term "State" as including Native American tribes, the Tribal Lending Entities, as arms of sovereign tribes, are not required to comply with the investigative demands. The court concluded that, in the Act, which is a generally applicable law, Congress did not expressly exclude tribes from the Bureau’s enforcement authority. The court explained that, although the Act defines “State” to include Native American tribes, with States occupying limited co-regulatory roles, this wording falls far short of demonstrating that the Bureau plainly lacks jurisdiction to issue the investigative demands challenged in this case, or that Congress intended to exclude Native American tribes from the Act’s enforcement provisions. Neither have the Tribes offered any legislative history compelling a contrary conclusion regarding congressional intent. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "CFPB v. Great Plains Lending, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a putative class action against M-I, alleging violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681b(b)(2)(A). Addressing an issue of first impression, the court held that a prospective employer violates Section 1681b(b)(2)(A) when it procures a job applicant’s consumer report after including a liability waiver in the same document as the statutorily mandated disclosure. The court also held that, in light of the clear statutory language that the disclosure document must consist “solely” of the disclosure, a prospective employer’s violation of the FCRA is “willful” when the employer includes terms in addition to the disclosure, such as the liability waiver in this case, before procuring a consumer report or causing one to be procured. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint. View "Syed v. M-I, LLC" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the law firm of Epsten Grinnell & Howell and attorney Debora M. Sumwalt (collectively, "Epsten") committed unlawful debt collection practices in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq., the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (Rosenthal Act), Cal. Civ. Code 1788 et seq., and the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200, et seq. The district court dismissed the FDCPA claims and the state law claims. The court held, however, that plaintiff has alleged a plausible claim for relief because the collection letter contains language that overshadows and conflicts with her FDCPA debt validation rights when reviewed under the “least sophisticated debtor” standard; rejected Epsten's argument, raised for the first time on appeal, that in sending the collection letter, it merely sought to perfect a security interest and is therefore subject only to the limitations in section 1692f(6); and held that Epsten is subject to the full scope of the FDCPA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Mashiri v. Epsten Grinnell & Howell" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against CarMax, alleging violations of four California consumer protection laws: (1) the Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA); (2) the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Song-Beverly); (3) common law fraud and deceit; and (4) the Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Plaintiff's claims under the CLRA and UCL were both based on CarMax’s alleged violation of California Vehicle Code section 11713.18(a)(6), which requires a car dealer to provide consumers with a “completed inspection report” prior to the sale of any “certified” vehicle. The district court dismissed the fraud and Song-Beverly claims and granted CarMax summary judgment on his CLRA and UCL claims. The court concluded that the district court did not err in exercising diversity-based subject matter jurisdiction over his case. The court concluded that when the potential cost of complying with injunctive relief is considered along with plaintiff's claims for compensatory damages and punitive damages, the district court did not err in finding that the jurisdictional amount-in-controversy requirement was satisfied. The court held that a report, like the ones in this case, that fails to indicate the results of an inspection in a manner that conveys the condition of individual car components to a buyer is not a "completed inspection report" under California law. The court noted that if CarMax’s generic, and ultimately uninformative, list of components inspected were considered a “completed inspection report,” section 11713.18(a)(6)’s effectiveness in promoting transparency in the sale of certified cars would be substantially diminished. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded the district court's grant of summary judgment to CarMax on the CLRA and UCL claims. View "Gonzales v. CarMax Auto Superstores LLC" on Justia Law
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After plaintiff began missing loan payments on a house she bought in Long Beach, ReconTrust initiated a non-judicial foreclosure. In this case, the lender was Countrywide, the borrower was plaintiff and the trustee was ReconTrust. Plaintiff subsequently filed suit alleging that ReconTrust violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692e(2)(A), by sending her notices that misrepresented the amount of debt she owed. Plaintiff also sought to rescind her mortgage transaction under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. 1635(a), on the ground that defendants had perpetrated fraud against her. The district court twice dismissed plaintiff's rescission claim without prejudice and then granted ReconTrust's motion to dismiss the FDCPA claims. The court held that actions taken to facilitate a non-judicial foreclosure, such as sending the notice of default and notice of sale, are not attempts to collect “debt” as that term is defined by the FDCPA; the court's holding affirms Hulse v. Ocwen Federal Bank; the court acknowledged that the Fourth and Sixth Circuit declined to follow Hulse; and the notices at issue in this case didn’t request payment from plaintiff, they merely informed plaintiff that the foreclosure process had begun and explained the foreclosure timeline. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of the FDCPA claim. The court also concluded where, as here, the district court dismisses a claim and instructs the plaintiff not to refile the claim unless he includes certain additional allegations that the plaintiff is unable or unwilling to make, the dismissed claim is preserved for appeal even if not repleaded. Therefore, the court remanded to the district court to consider plaintiff's TILA rescission claim in light of Merritt v. Countrywide Fin. Corp. View "Vien-Phoung Thi Ho v. ReconTrust Co." on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a law firm and debt collection agency, alleging claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692(e)(11). Plaintiff alleged that defendant was attempting to collect a debt on behalf of American Express and that by leaving the September 25th voicemail message, defendant violated the FDCPA by failing to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication was from a debt collector in violation of section 1692e(11). The court held that if a subsequent communication is sufficient to disclose to the least sophisticated debtor that the communication was from a debt collector, there is no violation of section 1692e(11) even if the debt collector did not expressly state, “this communication is from a debt collector.” Accordingly, defendant did not violate the FDCPA and the court reversed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiff. View "Davis v. Hollins Law" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed a putative class action, alleging that WZP violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692(g)(a), by sending a debt collection letter that lacked the disclosures required by section 1692(g)(a) of the FDCPA. Applying well-established tools of statutory interpretation and construing the language in section 1692g(a) in light of the context and purpose of the FDCPA, the court held that the phrase “the initial communication” refers to the first communication sent by any debt collector, including collectors that contact the debtor after another collector already did. The court held that the FDCPA unambiguously requires any debt collector - first or subsequent - to send a section 1692g(a) validation notice within five days of its first communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt. In this case, the district court erred in concluding that, because WZP was not the first debt collector to communicate with plaintiff about her debt, it had no obligation to comply with the statutory validation notice requirement. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Hernandez v. Williams, Zinman & Parham PC" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, debt collectors, alleging that they violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692i, when they sued her in the wrong judicial district to collect a debt that had been transferred to them. The district court concluded that the complaint was time-barred pursuant to the FDCPA’s one-year statute of limitations. The court concluded that, instead of applying Naas v. Stolman, the district court should have applied Mangum v. Action Collection Service, Inc., which is almost directly on point. The court held that the discovery rule applies equally regardless of the nature of the FDCPA violation alleged by a plaintiff. In this case, the court found that plaintiff's complaint was timely filed where she first learned of the collection action when she received service of process, and that she had no reason to suspect that she had been sued in Monterey County, a venue that is considerably distant from her residence in San Diego County. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Lyons v. Michael & Assocs." on Justia Law
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Pow! Mobile (the Company), not a party here, is a mobile content provider that marketed a “reverse auction” game called “Bid and Win.” Both Mobile Messenger and m-Qube (defendants) are “billing aggregators” who serve as financial intermediaries between customers and content providers. Plaintiff filed a class action alleging that defendants have engaged in a scheme “that causes Washington consumers to become unknowingly and unwittingly subscribed to premium text message services.” The district court held that defendants are not intended third-party beneficiaries entitled to enforce the arbitration clause at issue and denied defendants' motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the Terms and Conditions in this case create a direct obligation from the subscriber to the Company’s suppliers. The signatory to the Terms and Conditions agrees to waive all claims against the Company’s suppliers. Therefore, the Company’s suppliers are intended third-party beneficiaries of the Terms and Conditions. Thus, if defendants are suppliers of the Company, they may enforce the arbitration clause. The court remanded for the district court to make determinations in the first instance regarding assent to the Terms and Conditions, and whether defendants are Pow! Mobile’s suppliers. View "Geier v. m-Qube Inc." on Justia Law