Articles Posted in Class-Action

In a putative class action recently filed in a Florida federal district court against fast-food chain Burger King, the tagline for the Impossible Whopper of “100% Whopper, 0% Beef” is misleading. According to the plaintiff, Philip Williams, although Burger King advertises the Impossible Whopper as being a meat-free option, it is contaminated by meat by-product because it gets cooked on the same grill as other meat products.

The lawsuit accuses Burger King of “false and misleading business practices” and benefiting monetarily from claiming to offer customers a vegan option that in reality is not actually vegan. The plaintiff seeks to represent himself and a class of other vegans who ordered the Impossible Whopper from Burger King. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for all class members who bought the Impossible Whopper, as well as the imposition of an injunction requiring Burger King to “plainly disclose” that it uses the same grill to cook both the Impossible Whopper and meat burgers.

According to the complaint, the Burger King that the plaintiff visited did not have signage at the drive-thru indicating that the plant-based burger would be cooked on the same grill as meat. The Burger King website notes that “a non-broiler method of preparation is available upon request,” for customers ordering the Impossible Whopper. Despite noting this on its website, the plaintiff alleges that no one told him that the Impossible Whopper was cooked on the same grill as the meat burgers and that if he had known this fact, he would not have ordered it. The suit further claims that other vegans would not have purchased the Impossible Whopper either if they had known. The lawsuit cites similar complaints made by several other consumers online about the burger chain’s preparation of the Impossible Whopper. The complaint requests an order requiring Burger King to return all the profits it made from selling the meat-free alternative, including the money that Mr. Williams paid. Continue reading ›

A federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois has given final approval to three major cruise lines and a travel agency of a $12.5 million class-action settlement. The defendants were accused of bombarding consumers nationwide with prerecorded telemarketing calls promoting cruise trips without their consent.

Defendants Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, Norwegian Cruise Lines Limited, and Resort Marketing Group, the travel agency that allegedly operated the auto-dialing system, contributed to the settlement fund together. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants’ use of unsolicited robocalls violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

More than 270,000 valid claims were filed following the initial approval of the settlement in July 2017. According to documents filed in support of the settlement, a total 274,851 valid claims were filed. According to Judge Andrea R. Wood, the judge overseeing the case, this works out to roughly $22 per claim. Continue reading ›

The Federal Trade Commission is asking the Second Circuit federal appeals court to uphold a finding that 1-800 Contacts violated antitrust law by preventing rivals from using its trademarked name in search ads. Meanwhile, 1-800 Contacts is also defending against a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of consumers centering on the same conduct, but also naming additional retailers as defendants, including National Vision, Vision Direct, Luxxotica and Walgreens. Luxxotica recently agreed to pay $5.9 million to settle the claims against it in the lawsuit and National Vision settled for $7 million in 2017.

The dispute centers on 1-800 Contacts’s business practices dating back to 2004, when it brought or threatened legal action against numerous rivals accusing them of infringing its trademarks by purchasing search ads using the phrase “1-800 Contacts” to trigger a pay-per-click search ad. From 2004 through 2013, the company sued or threatened to sue at least 13 competitors over alleged trademark infringement on various search engines. 1-800 Contacts asserted that the act of purchasing ad words using its registered mark violated its trademark. In most cases, the rival companies responded to these threats or lawsuits by agreeing to enter agreements requiring them to cease bidding on search engine ad words using the 1-800 Contacts mark. Only Lens.com fought back and largely prevailed in the suit. Continue reading ›

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 ›

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