Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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California consumer protection laws do not obligate Mars, Inc. to label their goods as possibly being produced by child or slave labor. In the absence of any affirmative misrepresentations by the manufacturer, the manufacturer did not have a duty to disclose the labor practices in question, even though they were reprehensible, because they were not physical defects that affected the central function of the chocolate products. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative class action alleging that Mars had a duty to disclose on its labels the labor practices that may have tainted its supply chain. In this pure omissions case concerning no physical product defect relating to the central function of the chocolate and no safety defect, the panel held that plaintiff has not sufficiently pleaded that Mars had a duty to disclose on its labels the labor issues in its supply chain. Absent such a duty, plaintiff's claims under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Law, and False Advertising Law claims were foreclosed. View "Hodsdon v. Mars, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g), against the National Park Service. Plaintiff alleged that the Service violated the Act by failing to redact plaintiff's debit card expiration date from her park entrance purchase receipt. The panel held that plaintiff lacked standing where her complaint made only conclusory allegations that her stolen identity was traceable to the Park Service's alleged violation of the Act. The panel also held that leave to amend the complaint would be futile where the Act did not waive the federal government's sovereign immunity from suit. View "Daniel v. National Park Service" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Experian in an action alleging violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The panel held that plaintiffs' reasonable procedures and reasonable reinvestigation claims failed because Experian's credit reports were accurate. The panel also held that plaintiffs' failure to disclose claim failed because Experian clearly and accurately disclosed to plaintiffs all information that Experian recorded and retained that might be reflected in a consumer report. Finally, plaintiffs' request for statutory damages under 15 U.S.C. 1681n failed because they have not shown a willful violation by Experian. View "Shaw v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Echlin received treatment at PeaceHealth but ignored multiple requests for payment. PeaceHealth referred her accounts to CCI, a purported collection agency. Under a 2004 agreement, for a fixed fee, CCI performed services related to debt-collection and PeaceHealth would suspend its in-house collection efforts. CCI independently screened each account for potential collection problems. Although PeaceHealth was generally aware of the standard format of CCI’s letters, CCI alone controlled their content without PeaceHealth’s approval. The letters were written on CCI letterhead, mailed from CCI’s in-house mailing center, and listed CCI’s contact information (PeaceHealth’s information was labeled “Creditor Detail”). The letters directed debtors to a CCI website. CCI handled correspondence from PeaceHealth debtors.CCI had no ability to process or negotiate payments but forwarded to PeaceHealth any payments it received. After two letters, accounts were returned to PeaceHealth. CCI did not participate in subsequent collection steps. Echlin filed a putative class action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, 1692j. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. CCI did not engage in “flat-rating,” in which a third party sends a delinquency letter to a debtor, portraying itself as a debt collector, when it actually has no real involvement in the debt collection effort. CCI meaningfully participated in PeaceHealth’s debt-collection efforts, screening the accounts, independently composing and mailing letters, responding to customer questions, and maintaining a website that allowed customers to access individualized information. View "Echlin v. PeaceHealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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Heryford, Trinity County, California's District Attorney, sued American Bankers and others, on behalf of the people under California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), alleging they had “engaged in deceptive marketing and sales practices.” Private parties may seek injunctive relief and restitution under the UCL; only a public prosecutor may pursue civil penalties. The complaint listed private law firms as “Special Assistant District Attorneys.” An agreement required the Firms to “provide all legal services that are reasonably necessary,” and to “conduct negotiations and provide representations at all hearings, depositions, trials, appeals, and other appearances” with authority to control the performance of their work “under the direction of the District Attorney,” stating that Heryford’s office did “not relinquish its constitutional or statutory authority or responsibility” and retained “sole and final authority to initiate and settle.” Heryford retained the Firms on a contingency-fee basis. American Bankers challenged the contingency-fee agreement as a violation of its federal due process rights that gave the Firms “a direct and substantial financial stake in the imposition of civil penalties and restitution,” which “compromise[d] the integrity and fairness of the prosecutorial motive and the public’s faith in the judicial process.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Heryford’s retention of private counsel to pursue civil penalties cannot be meaningfully distinguished from a private relator’s pursuit of civil penalties under the qui tam provisions of the False Claim Act, an arrangement that does not violate due process. View "American Bankers Management Co. v. Heryford" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims based on lack of Article III standing. Plaintiffs filed suit against online retailer Zappos.com, alleging that they were harmed by hacking of their accounts. The panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged standing based on the risk of identity theft under Krottner v. Starbucks Corp., 628 F.3d 1139 (9th Cir. 2010). Plaintiffs also alleged an injury in fact under Krottner, based on a substantial risk that the Zappos hackers will commit identity fraud or identity theft. The panel explained that it assessed standing at the time the complaints were filed, not as of the present. Finally, the panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the risk of future harm was fairly traceable to the conduct being challenged and that their identity theft injury was redressable. The panel addressed an issue raised by sealed briefing in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition. View "Stevens v. Zappos.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims based on lack of Article III standing. Plaintiffs filed suit against online retailer Zappos.com, alleging that they were harmed by hacking of their accounts. The panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged standing based on the risk of identity theft under Krottner v. Starbucks Corp., 628 F.3d 1139 (9th Cir. 2010). Plaintiffs also alleged an injury in fact under Krottner, based on a substantial risk that the Zappos hackers will commit identity fraud or identity theft. The panel explained that it assessed standing at the time the complaints were filed, not as of the present. Finally, the panel held that plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the risk of future harm was fairly traceable to the conduct being challenged and that their identity theft injury was redressable. The panel addressed an issue raised by sealed briefing in a concurrently filed memorandum disposition. View "Stevens v. Zappos.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Receiving an overly revealing credit card receipt -- unseen by others and unused by identity thieves-- was not a sufficient injury to confer Article III standing. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action alleging a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In this case, plaintiff filed suit alleging that ABM violated the Act's requirement that businesses redact certain credit card information on printed receipts. 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g). The panel joined the Second and Seventh Circuits in affirming dismissal under identical circumstances and held that plaintiff failed to allege a concrete injury sufficient to give him standing. View "Bassett v. ABM Parking Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in a class action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227. In this case, plaintiff received a text message from AC Referral, a non-party, that violated the TCPA. Plaintiff claimed that three lenders and two marketing companies ratified the unlawful text messages. The panel held that, although one of the marketing companies, Click Media, had an agency relationship with AC Referral, it was not bound by AC Referral's acts because it lacked knowledge that AC Referral was violating the TCPA and did not have knowledge of facts that would have led a reasonable person to investigate further. Therefore, Click Media could not be deemed to have ratified AC Referral's actions and was not vicariously liable. View "Kristensen v. Credit Payment Services" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of an action against a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq. The panel remanded for further proceedings, holding that federal law preempts a private party's use of state execution procedures to acquire and destroy a debtor's FDCPA claims against it. The panel explained that such a procedure frustrates the Act's purpose. View "Arellano v. Clark County Collection Service" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law