Articles Posted in Class-Action

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Our Chicago, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, 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 totaling 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 DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to 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 Joliet and Bollingbrook 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 Cicero and DeKalb consumer protection, gift card and data breach attorneys 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 (877) 990-4990.

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It may be a first when class-action consumer litigation requires a Seventh Circuit panel to describe the step-by-step process of creating a Subway sandwich in a published opinion.

But that’s indeed what the court did in its recent ruling dismissing a class-action suit against the Subway fast-food chain; ham, provolone, pepper jack and all.

It all started in 2013 when an Australian teenager posted a photograph of his Subway “Footlong” sandwich next to a tape measure on his Facebook page. The sandwich measured only 11 inches. The post went viral and Subway customers in the U.S. began measuring their own sandwiches, and it was only a matter of time before the plaintiffs’ bar got in on the action.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers sued Subway, seeking damages and injunctive relief under state consumer-protection laws. The different cases were consolidated in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Subway’s defense was that because of deviations in the baking process, some rolls would inevitably shrink to under 12 inches, but all customers still received the same quantity of ingredients and most customers still got to enjoy a foot-long sandwich. Continue reading

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Even those of us who have come to terms with the fact that companies and advertisers track everything we do online aren’t ready to compromise their children’s privacy. In fact, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a federal law that was put in place specifically to do exactly what it sounds like: protect the privacy of children when they’re online.

But Disney, along with some of its software partners, allegedly violated this law by embedding trackers in some of the entertainment company’s most popular apps that tracked users’ information and allegedly distributed it to other companies and advertisers. As an entertainment company that primarily targets children, many of the users whose information is being tracked and disseminated are children aged 13 and younger.

The lawsuit lists dozens of popular Disney apps, including Cars Lightening League and Maleficent Free Fall, that, once downloaded, allowed the trackers embedded in the apps to collect the information and then extract it from the smart devices so it could be disseminated for commercial purposes – all without the knowledge or consent of the children’s parents, the lawsuit claims.

According to Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, Disney should not be using the software companies listed in the complaint. He says they involve heavy-duty technologies designed to track and monetize information on people, and as such, should not be working with a company that targets young children. Continue reading

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The bait and switch tactic of selling goods and services is a trick as old as time, but it’s not always legal. If a customer signs a contract agreeing to pay a particular price for something, it is expected that the price will not change for the duration of the contract, unless both parties agree to the change in writing. That change can happen, either as an amendment to the contract, or as part of a new contract.

According to a federal class action consumer lawsuit that was recently filed in California, Comcast allegedly lured new cable customers with promises of low rates, which they then jacked up without warning or gaining consent from their customers. The fees in question are: the “Broadcast TV Fee,” which allegedly went from $1.50/month in 2014 to $6.50/month in 2016; and the “Regional Sports Fee,” which allegedly went from $1/month in 2015 to $4.50 in 2016.

When customers complained to Comcast, they were allegedly told by company representatives that the fees were government-related taxes or fees over which the company said it had no control – an assertion the plaintiffs claim is a blatant lie.

Comcast asked the court to dismiss all the claims put forth by the plaintiffs, saying its online order submission process was not enough to constitute a legally-binding contract. On the other hand, the Subscriber Agreement and Minimum Term Agreement were binding contracts in which the customers had allegedly agreed to pay Comcast’s fees.

Judge Vince Chhabria, of the U.S. District Court of Northern California, rejected Comcast’s motion to dismiss, saying that, by submitting their order, Comcast customers were agreeing to pay Comcast’s advertised prices, in addition to government-related taxes and fees. Chhabria denied Comcast’s assertion that consumers agreed to its higher fees in the Subscriber Agreement. As far as the Minimum Term Agreement was concerned, the plaintiffs allege they never saw it when submitting their order, in which case they cannot be bound by its terms. Chhabria said the plaintiffs had plausibly asserted that they never saw the agreement, although determining it in fact will have to be left to the more in-depth analysis of a summary judgment. Continue reading

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It’s hard to see how a children’s clothing store could be a competitor for a brand that sells high-end men’s and women’s clothing. But that’s allegedly what Trunk Club told a former employee who wanted to go to work for Mac & Mia, which Trunk Club said would be in violations of the non-compete agreement she had signed with them.

A subsidiary of Nordstrom’s, Trunk Club is a personal styling service for men and women, while Mac & Mia uses personal stylists to help sell children’s clothing. Molly Dowell worked as a personal stylist at Trunk Club for about six months before leaving, citing concerns about the future of the company. Nordstrom’s recently reduced Trunk Club’s value to half of what the clothing giant paid for the personal styling company, saying it had not been performing as well as Nordstrom’s had hoped it would. That, combined with the recent departure of Trunk Club’s CEO, suggests Dowell’s concerns for the company may have been well-founded. Continue reading

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In an age where people are paying and utilizing services online, a certain standard which is regulated by law and expected by clientele needs to be met.  That is why when a man from Illinois has decided to sue an online service for paying monthly fees for a service which he is claiming had multiple inactive or dead profile accounts.

In the complaint which is filed in a Federal Court, the service repeatedly asked him pay between $9.99 and $19.99 per month to connect with users who “liked” his profile after the creation of a free account, upon which, he immediately began receiving messages from other users who had supposedly liked his profile. To learn the identities of those who had liked his account, however, the plaintiff was prompted to pay for a premium, or “A-List,” service. The plaintiff alleges that right after the payment of $44.99, he knew something was amiss. Shortly thereafter, upon reviewing the profiles of individuals whose identities were previously hidden, the plaintiff allegedly discovered that most if not all of these people were associated with inactive or ‘dead’ accounts, making interaction or dating impossible.

It is alleged that the actions constitute a breach of contract and violate both the Illinois Dating Referral Services Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act with potential to seek class-action status. Continue reading

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Shortly after having paid a total of more than $300 million in fines and settlement payments for allegedly opening fake accounts for its customers without their knowledge or consent, Wells Fargo is once again back in the spotlight for allegations of fraud.

This time the allegations are in regards to the bank’s auto lending business, which allegedly signed up and charged customers for car insurance they may or may not have needed or been made aware of. According to the class action lawsuit, most of the approximately 570,000 customers involved were not looking for a car loan from Wells Fargo, but got one anyway after they had chosen an automobile.

Wells Fargo required borrowers to maintain comprehensive car insurance, like almost any other auto loan company. Unlike other auto loan companies, Wells Fargo allegedly bought insurance for its customers who did not have comprehensive insurance, then charged them for it. Wells Fargo even admitted to buying insurance for customers who already had coverage.

National General has also been named as a defendant in the lawsuit, as it is the company from which Wells Fargo purchased insurance on behalf of the customers it deemed were underinsured (whether they were or not). The bank then charged their customers for that insurance, regardless of whether those customers could afford the insurance Wells Fargo had bought for them.

Many of the customers who were forced to pay for auto insurance they could not afford fell behind on their payments, to the point where some were forced to default on their loans, resulting in the repossession of their vehicles. Continue reading

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The Seventh Circuit has again rejected a pick-off attempt in a class action overturning a dismissal that approved use of that tactic.

Just because someone offers to make a payment to settle a legal dispute does not mean the payee is required to accept the payment. Nor does the offer of payment (or deposit made to the court) negate the existence of the legal dispute. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what Bisco Inc. tried to claim after Fulton Dental, LLC filed a putative class action lawsuit against the dental company.

Fulton sued Bisco for allegedly violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by sending unsolicited fax messages about dental products. Fulton sued on behalf of itself and all those similarly situated who received unsolicited fax messages from Bisco (for which Fulton was therefore made to pay). But before Fulton had a chance to file a motion to certify its class of plaintiffs, Bisco offered to pay Fulton about $3,000 in order to settle the dispute. Fulton refused, but Bisco made a deposit to the court of $3,600 and claimed that settled the whole matter.

The Seventh Circuit Court disagreed, going off the Supreme Court’s 2016 in Campbell-Ewald, in which the Supreme Court rejected the assertion that an offer to pay the plaintiff’s damages in full did not render the class action lawsuit moot under Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

However, in its written opinion, the Supreme Court did note that, by making the ruling in this particular case, the Court was not trying to rule in any other legal disputes of a similar nature. Bisco took that to mean the deposit it made to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was still a valid method of ending its legal dispute with Fulton Dental. Continue reading

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The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found the owner of the Akira retail chain didn’t violate federal and state law when it sent promotional text messages to customers who had provided their phone numbers. Nicole B. filed a class‐action lawsuit against Chicago‐based Bijora, Inc., which operates the Akira clothing stores, alleging that Akira’s practice of sending promotional text messages to customers violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

Akira, which has over 20 stores in the Chicagoland area, used third-party text‐messaging software to inform its customers of promotions, discounts, and in‐store special events. Customers could opt in to its “Text Club” by providing their cell phone numbers to Akira representatives inside stores, texting “Akira” to a number posted in stores, or filling out an “Opt In Card.”

Akira collected cell numbers for over 20,000 customers and between 2009 and 2011, sent some 60 text messages advertising store promotions, parties, events, contests, sales, and giveaways to those customers, including Nicole B.

Nicole alleged that Akira violated TCPA’s prohibition against using an automatic telephone dialing system to make calls without the prior express consent of the recipient. The suit sought $1,500 for each of the 1.2 million texts sent, for a total of over $1.8 billion in statutory damages.

Summary judgment was granted on the trial court’s determination that Akira and its software provider had not used an autodialer to send the messages because human involvement was required in the platform’s text message transmission process. Continue reading

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We’re all careful to try to avoid the dreaded overdraft fee. One wrong calculation and we could find ourselves facing hefty fines that just keep adding up until our next payday.

But the banks have rigged the system against us. They have decided to rearrange the order of our transactions so that our larger withdrawals are processed first, followed by smaller transactions, which then leave us with a negative balance in our checking account. When we do get paid again, the deposit gets applied to the overdraft fee before we can access the rest, meaning the bank is essentially paying itself first with our money.

To call overdraft fees counterproductive is an understatement. In many cases they lead to an endless cycle of debt, and unsurprisingly, it’s usually the people with the lowest income who are made to pay the vast majority of overdraft fees.

To make a bad situation worse, some banks (like Wells Fargo) refuse to settle the dispute in court. Instead, they included an arbitration clause in their customer contract that requires their clients to settle all legal disputes in arbitration – a system that was set up for (and benefits) businesses, rather than individuals.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) looked into the benefits and drawbacks for individuals trying to settle their disputes with large businesses in arbitration. The private process consistently benefited big businesses, despite business advocates claiming arbitration provides more benefits to individuals than the court system. The CFPB’s study found that most individuals simply gave up, rather than pursue the dispute in arbitration, especially in cases of small claim amounts, when the potential reward is significantly less than the costs of pursuing arbitration. Even when the individuals did succeed in obtaining an award (less than 10% of those filed) the relief provided was less than 15% of the value of their claim.

Because arbitration is not designed to handle class actions, individuals are forced to duke it out against big businesses on their own – hence the tendency to abandon small claims, which they could pursue if they were give then chance to combine their claims with other plaintiffs with similar grievances. Arbitration is also private, which means even if an individual does manage to beat the odds and obtain an award, other people in the same situation have no way of knowing about it, which puts another layer of restriction on the individuals’ opportunities for obtaining an award, especially if they’re not even aware they have a valid claim.

The CFPB is trying to put a stop to this by implementing a new rule banning banks from forcing their customers into arbitration agreements. It has the support of several U.S. Senators who got together to publish a letter of concern regarding banks’ arbitration agreements with their customers.

While other banks have agreed to settle their customers’ claims from overdraft fees, Wells Fargo continues to hold out against a class of consumers trying to force the bank to resolve the dispute in court, rather than arbitration. Courts have consistently ruled against Wells Fargo, but the bank is getting ready to bring their case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping its judges might be more sympathetic to its case. If they take it all the way to the Supreme Court, we’ll get a final decision on the matter. Continue reading