Spokeo Case Argued Before the Supreme Court — It Could Become the Death Knell For Many Statutory Consumer Claims

By now it’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the Internet. At the same time, many people regularly use the Internet to look up information on people, places, and businesses.

One Web directory, Spokeo Inc., is currently facing a lawsuit for posting inaccurate information of Thomas Robins on their website. Robins’s profile on Spokeo listed him as being in his 50s with a graduate degree, employed in a professional or technical field, with very strong economic health, a very high wealth level, and a wife and children.

Although Robins acknowledges his profile did have some accurate information, he says he was unemployed at the time the false information was posted in 2010, he does not have a graduate degree, is not married, has no children, and is not in his 50s.

Robins alleges Spokeo is a “consumer reporting agency” under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and that the website markets its reports to HR professionals, law enforcement, and those looking to do background checks. As a result, Robins alleges he was harmed by the false information about him that was posted on Spokeo.

The lawsuit further alleges Spokeo violated the 1970 fair-credit reporting law, which requires consumer reporting agencies to take measures to assure maximum accuracy in the information they provide.

Robins is seeking class action certification for his lawsuit so he can represent others who have been victims of Spokeo’s alleged false reporting.

Spokeo sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying it is not covered by the FCRA and that it warns its profiles are not to be used for things like establishing a consumer’s eligibility for credit or employment. Spokeo also claimed Robins had not actually been harmed by the misinformation on their site, and therefore has no standing to file a lawsuit.

A federal district court initially denied Spokeo’s motion to dismiss, then reversed that decision and dismissed Robins’s lawsuit.

Robins appealed that decision and the dispute went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco, which reversed the lower court’s dismissal and revived Robins’s legal claims. The 9th Circuit Court stated that the publication of misinformation under the FCRA constituted a violation of a statutory right, which is sufficient injury to warrant filing a lawsuit.

Spokeo appealed that decision and the dispute is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit is exciting because it has the potential to create major changes when it comes to what people can post online. Both sides have racked up supporters for various reasons.

On Spokeo’s side stand a range of business interests and groups like The Consumer Data Industry Association, whose members’ consumer-reporting procedures are repeated up to millions of times each day.

Meanwhile, privacy groups, environmental groups, and the Obama administration have lined up to support Robins.

This lawsuit is just one issue to gain national attention at a time when many people are becoming increasingly wary of how much personal information gets shared in the digital age. In that sense, it should come as no surprise that there are people lining up to protest the spread of misinformation that has the potential to cause serious damage to our personal and professional lives.

Our Waukonda and Libertyville, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocatesthe National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.

Our Mt. Prospect and Rolling Meadows consumer attorneys provide assistance in data breach, privacy violation, fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Fox Lake and Lake Villa privacy, consumer protection and data breach lawyers who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here.  You can also call our toll free number at 630-333-0333.

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