Articles Posted in Class-Action

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can move forward with a class-action lawsuit challenging the company’s use of facial recognition technology. Facebook had argued that the court should not let the plaintiffs proceed on a class basis with claims that it violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (often referred to a “BIPA”). The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in Patel v. Facebook affirmed the District Court’s decision to certify a class of Illinois Facebook users.

The BIPA is intended to protect the biometric privacy of Illinois citizens by imposing restrictions on the collection and storage of certain biometric information by private companies. One of the protections afforded by the law is the requirement that a company must obtain an individual’s written consent before collecting and storing any such biometric information.

The case stems from a class action complaint filed by three Illinois Facebook users on behalf of all Illinois Facebook users accusing the social media company of unlawfully gathering and storing its users’ biometric information, including through the use of facial recognition technology, without consent. Specifically, the suit targets a feature Facebook launched in 2010 called “Tag Suggestions” which uses facial recognition technology to build a “face template” of an individual from pictures uploaded to the site. The software builds these face templates by analyzing an individual’s face in uploaded photos and measuring various geometric data points on an individual’s face such as the distance between eyes, nose, and ears. Users are able to opt-out of the feature, and Facebook argued that it only builds face templates of Facebook users who have not opted-out and have the feature turned on. Continue reading ›

If you’ve used Facebook at all in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that every time you post a photo with one of your friends, Facebook automatically suggests you tag that person. While that might seem innocent enough, the facial recognition technology Facebook uses to accomplish that is highly controversial and possibly illegal.

Facial recognition technology is a relatively recent development and it didn’t take long for it to become controversial. With the abundance of cameras all around us, facial recognition technology allows owners of the technology to find us just about everywhere we go, which is why Facebook is now facing a class action consumer lawsuit on behalf of millions of Illinois users.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook used its facial recognition technology to gather and store biometric data on its users without their consent, which violates the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008. Facebook tried to have the class action dismissed and to force each plaintiff to sue them individually, knowing the costs of filing the lawsuit would prohibit most, if not all the plaintiffs from pursuing legal action.

But the court said the class action was the proper format for this particular lawsuit. Facebook appealed that decision, and the appellate court recently upheld the lower court’s ruling, allowing the class action to proceed as is. Continue reading ›

A student loan debtor sued her loan servicer, arguing that the servicer had violated Illinois consumer fraud law by asserting that its customer representatives were experts in repayment options and acted in a borrower’s best interest when they were in fact instructed to steer borrowers into payment options that benefited the servicer more than the borrower. The district court dismissed the suit, finding that federal disclosure law preempted the suit, but the appellate court reversed, holding that penalizing loan servicers for making affirmative misrepresentations did not impose additional disclosure requirements on servicers, and thus was not preempted.

Nicole Nelson financed her education with federal student loans. Great Lakes, Nelson’s loan servicer, manages borrowers’ accounts, processes payments, assists borrowers with alternative repayment plans, and communicates with borrowers about the repayment of their loans. Nelson began repaying her loans in December 2009. In September 2013, she changed jobs and her income dropped. She contacted Great Lakes, and its representative led Nelson to believe that “forbearance” was the best option for her personal financial situation. A few months later, Nelson lost her new job. She contacted Great Lakes again in March 2014. This time, the representative again did not inform her of income-based repayment options, and instead steered her into deferment.

Forbearance is the temporary cessation of payments, allowing an extension of the term of the loan, or temporarily accepting smaller payments than were previously scheduled. Under forbearance, unpaid interest is capitalized, which can substantially increase monthly payments after the forbearance period ends. Federal law requires lenders and loan servicers to offer income-driven repayment plans, which Nelson argues are more appropriate in situations of longer-term financial hardship. Enrolling callers in these plans is, however, time-consuming for customer service representatives. Nelson eventually sued Great Lakes on behalf of a putative class, arguing that Great Lakes breach Illinois consumer protection law when it held itself out as an expert on student loan plans and caused her to rely on their assertions that they would operate on her behalf. The district court dismissed Nelson’s complaint, finding that her claims were preempted by federal law that stated that federal student loans were not subject to state-law disclosure requirements. Nelson then appealed. Continue reading ›

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela that an ambiguous arbitration agreement does not provide a sufficient basis to conclude that parties agreed to class arbitration. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision that the arbitration agreement between Lamps Plus and one of its employees permitted pursuing class claims in arbitration despite the fact that the arbitration agreement did not expressly address the issue of class arbitration. This is a follow-up to an earlier post where we discussed the District Court’s ruling in this case.

By way of background, the case stemmed from a dispute regarding whether an employer properly protected the tax information of its nearly 1300 employees. After a fraudulent tax return was filed in the name of one of the employees, the employee filed suit against his employer, Lamps Plus. Lamps Plus responded by seeking to dismiss the lawsuit and compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the employee’s employment contract. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. Animal Feeds Int’l Corporation, which bars arbitrating claims on a class basis in the absence of a “contractual basis for concluding” that the parties agreed to class arbitration, Lamps Plus sought to compel the employee to arbitrate on an individual basis. The District Court ruled in favor of Lamps Plus on the request to dismiss the case and compel arbitration but rejected the employer’s request to require the employee to arbitrate his claims on an individual basis. Continue reading ›

The line between security and privacy has always been a bit blurry and it continues to get blurrier every day as technology advances. One of the latest developments in surveillance technology has been facial recognition software, which is allegedly capable of identifying you with just a quick scan of your face. While this could have far-reaching effects in the crime-solving world, it also eliminates much of our personal privacy in the process.

Brian Hofer is a paralegal in California who has been fighting to ban facial recognition software for the past five years. As soon as he became aware of the technology in 2014, he joined activist groups to try to get the technology banned from his hometown of Oakland. Once that was accomplished, he started working with other local government bodies across California to ban the technology from their streets. Since then, Hofer has drafted 26 different privacy laws for cities and counties all over the state of California, and all 26 have been approved.

While facial recognition technology may have been the catalyst for Hofer to start fighting for each citizen’s right to privacy, it has extended beyond that to include demands that companies and governing bodies be transparent about the kind of technology they’re using for their surveillance efforts. He has also convinced some cities, including Richmond and Berkeley, to cancel their contracts with tech companies like Vigilant Solutions and Amazon – both Richmond and Berkeley have sanctuary policies and both Vigilant Solutions and Amazon share information with ICE, so Hofer successfully argued that maintaining both the sanctuary policies and contracts with those companies constituted a conflict. Continue reading ›

Congress is currently considering two new bills that take aim at the practice of requiring consumers to agree to resolve all disputes through binding arbitration and including class action waivers in consumer contracts. If passed and signed into law, the laws could dramatically change the way businesses contract and resolve disputes with consumers.

The first bill being considered is the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (“FAIR Act”). Introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in the Senate (S. 620) and Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia in the House (H.R. 1423), the FAIR Act seeks to amend the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §1, et seq., and would prohibit the inclusion of mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts with employees and consumers. Continue reading ›

Where a class of consumers sued an energy company for breach of contract, fraud, and unjust enrichment, the district court dismissed some, but not all, of the claims. The district court found that the consumers had sufficiently alleged that the energy company violated its agreement to charge rates for electricity based on market conditions and that the consumers had pled a claim for unjust enrichment in the alternative. However, the court found that the consumers failed to allege adequate details of a fraudulent scheme.

Verde Energy USA, Inc. was sued by a class of consumers in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois. The consumers alleged that Verde violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act, breached its contract, or alternatively was guilty of unjust enrichment with respect to the class. The consumers’ complaint alleged that Verde had taken advantage of the deregulation of the Illinois energy market, convincing consumers to switch from their prior energy company to Verde by offering a teaser rate that was lower than the utilities’ actual rates for electricity. The consumers alleged that, after the teaser rate expired, Verde switched consumers to a variable rate that was not based on market conditions as required by the contract the consumers had with Verde. Continue reading ›

Where a person whose biometric information was collected by a private entity who failed to comply with the requirements of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act was an aggrieved person entitled to sue within the meaning of the act even if they had sustained no further injury beyond the violation of the act itself.

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation and its subsidiary Great America LLC own and operate the Six Flags Great America amusement park in Gurnee, Illinois. As part of this operation, Six Flags sells repeat-entry passes to the park. Since 2014, Six Flags has used a fingerprinting process when issuing those passes. The Six Flags system scans pass holders’ fingerprints, collects, records and stores “biometric” identifiers and information gleaned from the fingerprints, and then stores that data in order to quickly verify customer identities upon visits by pass holders to the park.

In May or June 2014, while the fingerprinting system was in operation, Stacy Rosenbach’s 14-year-old son, Alexander, visited the amusement park on a school field trip. In anticipation of the trip, Rosenbach purchased Alexander a season pass online. Rosenbach paid for the pass and provided personal information about Alexander, but Alexander was required to complete the sign-up process at the amusement park. Alexander was asked to scan his thumb into Six Flags’ biometric data capture system. He was then issued a season pass card. Rosenbach allegedly learned that Alexander’s fingerprints had been taken for the first time when Alexander returned home from the field trip.

Rosenbach eventually filed suit, acting in her capacity as mother and next friend of Alexander, against Six Flags. Continue reading ›

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed a decision by the Illinois Circuit Court in a class action concerning the Consumer Fraud Act, where a retailer was alleged to have improperly collected taxes on exempt bottled water products. The court found that the voluntary payment doctrine did not apply to a payment that was allegedly obtained through deceptive business practices or acts. The court also found that an intent to deceive could be shown by evidence that the payment of the tax by the consumer was a predictable consequence of the retailer asking the consumer to pay the tax.

In 2008, the City of Chicago began imposing a five-cent tax on the sale of bottled water within city limits. Retailers are required to include the tax in the price of bottled water. The city excludes certain bottled beverages from the tax including certain brands of sparkling and mineral water, and other flavored and carbonated water products.

Destin McIntosh sued Walgreens Boots Alliance in Illinois state court. McIntosh filed a class action alleging that Walgreens violated the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by charging the bottled water tax on sparkling water sales that were supposed to be exempt. Walgreens attempted to dismiss the case, arguing that McIntosh’s claim was barred because the tax was disclosed to McIntosh at the time of purchase and that the tax was remitted to the city. The Illinois circuit court granted the motion, and McIntosh appealed. Continue reading ›