Articles Posted in Consumer Fraud/Consumer Protection

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Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest grade of olive oil and people are often willing to pay a higher price for bottles claiming to be filled with EVOO. By definition, EVOO has been made by cold-pressing olives, without using any sulfates or other chemicals in the extraction process. It’s also supposed to have a superior taste compared to all the other forms of olive oil, although the average consumer is unlikely to be able to tell the difference. Unfortunately, there are plenty of olive oil manufacturers who rely on that ignorance.

Although we all do it, there are a few problems with buying a bottle just because it’s labeled “extra virgin olive oil.” The first is that bottles bearing that label are all too easy to obtain here in the U.S., despite the fact that real EVOO is the best of the best, and yet a glance at American grocery store shelves would have you believe that virtually every olive oil sold here is EVOO.

The truth is that EVOO is one of the largest (and oldest) scams in the world. Tests conducted by the University of California-Davis to the National Consumers League have found that more than half the olive oil labeled EVOO in the U.S. is actually adulterated with other oils, such as sunflower seed and peanut oils. Not only do these oils lack taste, they also lack the renowned health benefits of EVOO and can even cause allergic reactions in some consumers. Continue reading

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The makers of products for newborns and young children, Johnson & Johnson, were subject to suit for their talcum powder.  It was alleged that lung cancer came about due to use of that powder.  As a result, a New Jersey banker and his wife were awarded $37 million in compensation for damages sustained.  More specifically, $30 million for him and $7 million for his wife.  Johnson and Johnson assumed 70% of the liability for the illness. The supplier of the talc mineral is what was linked to the cross contamination with asbestos being mined.  For that reason, they were hit with the other 30% of the liability.  In addition, there are thousands of other cases tying its talc products to ovarian cancer.

The way the mesothelioma acted was by having inhalation of the baby powder dust by regular use since his 1972. The jury was a seven-woman jury, which had found that asbestos was concealed in their products, making the product deadly.  This is despite the evidence that Johnson & Johnson has long tested its products for contamination and the other party argued that asbestos exposure could have come from somewhere else other than the talc.  “The evidence was clear that his asbestos exposure came from a different source such as the asbestos found in his childhood home or schools,” a spokeswoman had said and they will most likely consider an appeal.  Punitive damages are also yet to come, as the second phase of the trial is to begin next week.  On Tuesday, the jurors will make the decision as to whether or not to award punitive damages. Johnson & Johnson said it was disappointed by the jury’s most recent decision. Johnson & Johnson still affirms that its products are not carcinogenic and never have or do not contain traces of asbestos fibers. Continue reading

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Would you buy makeup that had been opened and used by someone else?

According to a recent class action consumer lawsuit, that’s allegedly what Ulta Beauty, a multi-million-dollar cosmetics company, has been doing. When people return cosmetics to the company for a refund, for any reason, store employees were allegedly instructed by managers to repackage and re-seal the returned items, then put them back on the shelves to be resold.

The allegations started with a Twitter user who claims to be a former employee of Ulta. According to a series of tweets she posted, the alleged practice of repackaging and re-sealing used products extended to all the company’s products, from makeup to fragrance to haircare tools. After she posted these accusations, other Twitter users, also claiming to have worked for Ulta, jumped to back up her claims, while others rejected them.

While the social media storm was no doubt a PR nightmare for Ulta, the Bolingbrook-based company now has a bigger problem on its hands: a consumer class action lawsuit seeking to represent anyone who has ever purchased products from Ulta. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago by Kimberley Laura Smith-Brown, who lives in Los Angeles and says she has bought dozens of Ulta products over the past six months, including eyeliner and lip balm.

While the complaint acknowledges that using cosmetics that have been opened and used by someone else is unsanitary, the lawsuit is more concerned with Ulta’s unjust enrichment as a result of this business practice. Aside from allegedly gaining the additional funds from selling the same products twice, the lawsuit also wants to sue Ulta for allegedly deceiving customers about the quality of the cosmetics they were buying. If Ulta’s products really were second hand, then they shouldn’t be charging full price for them, according to the lawsuit. Continue reading

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Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, certain business advocates continue to insist that arbitration bans hurt individual consumers and employees more than they help them. They are not bothered by the facts, such as:

  1. Arbitration does not allow multiple plaintiffs to combine their claims into a class action or collective action. This effectively blocks consumer lawsuits from ever seeing the light of day because an individual’s claims are often smaller than the cost of filing a lawsuit or pursuing the dispute in arbitration.
  2. There is no explanation for why an arbitrator ruled the way they did and no opportunity to appeal the decision.
  3. The arbitration process is kept private, which means the results, and even a customer filing for relief for a complaint, are never made public. The transparent nature of the courts is an inherent ingredient to justice and accountability. By keeping all the proceedings private, other consumers with identical or similar complaints will not even know that they have a valid complaint.
  4. Arbitration is not always neutral. While some arbitrators have a good reputation for neutrality, others are less trustworthy, and many arbitration clauses give the company the power to choose the arbitrator. Because arbitration is a business, many arbitrators tend to be tempted to rule in favor of the side that brings them a lot of business.

Despite all these facts, and extensive research conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) showing how arbitration clauses harmed consumers, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both voted to overturn a CFPB rule that would prohibit banks from putting arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts. Continue reading

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An engineer for vehicles was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment and will pay a $200,000 fine for emissions-cheating deception after cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in their criminal investigation of a conspiracy to defraud government officials and customers.

A pleading of being charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the U.S., committing wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act for his role in helping vehicles evade emissions requirements with diesel-powered vehicles. As a result, the foreign national agreed to be removed from the U.S. following the prison term, according to prosecutors. The engineer initially moved to and settled in the U.S. to help launch diesel-powered vehicles and handle certification, testing, and warranty issues, prosecutors said.

Furthermore, the sentence imposed by the judge exceeded prosecutors’ recommendation. The initial request was that the accused receive three years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine. It was a stiffer sentence than expected, as the engineer only helped to create software that controlled exhaust emissions. The tough sentence sends a message that employees can and should be held accountable for misdeeds they commit for their corporate employers. Many individuals have not been held responsible for corporate misconduct and this is one of those rare cases; a stunning fraud on the American consumer, being a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system. Such incidences give rise to a reduced trust in corporate America and undermine the economy. As a result, the ruling sends a strong message even though he was not “mastermind” and never benefited financially from its development of devices that masked the high levels of harmful emissions. Continue reading

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Our Chicago automobile fraud and Lemon law attorneys near Wheaton, Waukegan and Gurnee have experience representing victims of odometer roll backs, title washing, fake or improper certifications of rebuilt wrecks and other used car scams. We bring individual and class actions suits for defective cars with common design defects and auto dealer fraud and other car dealer scams such as selling rebuilt wrecks as certified used cars or misrepresenting a car as being in good condition when it is rebuilt wreck or had the odometer rolled back. We also see cases where new car dealers conceal that the car has been in accident while in their possession or used car dealers who put duck tape in back of the check engine light to conceal serious engine or emission problems.  Super Lawyers has selected our DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Will and Cook County Illinois auto-fraud, car dealer fraud and lemon law lawyers as among the top 5% in Illinois. We only collect our fee if we win or settle your case. For a free consultation call our Chicago class action lawyers at our toll free number (877) 990-4990 or contact us on the web by clicking here.

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Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner made quick work of a recent class action suit brought by glaucoma patients who alleged that Allergan, Inc., and other drugmakers manufactured prescription eyedrops that were too large in order to increase their profits (Eike, et al., v. Allergan, Inc., et al., No. 16-3334, 7th Cir. (2017)). The case was on appeal from a district court ruling certifying eight classes of plaintiffs consisting of Illinois and Missouri residents who alleged that Allergan and six other pharmaceutical companies made eye drops that were unnecessarily large, in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

Each eyedrop exceeded 16 microliters, beyond the optimal size the plaintiffs contended was necessary for treatment of glaucoma and therefore wasteful because the additional microliters added no therapeutic value, instead serving only to pad the companies’ profits. The plaintiffs sought damages amounting to the difference between the price per drop of the eye drops at their present size and the presumably lower price of smaller drops, multiplied by the number of drops purchased by the class members.  Continue reading

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Under a federal law that requires employers to inform job applicants that they may obtain their credit reports as part of the application process, an employer cannot make applicants sign a release from liability before procuring the report. (Sarmad Syed v. M-I, LLC, No. 14-17186 (9th Cir. 2017).  In a case of first impression in the federal circuit, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a prospective employer violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when it procures a job applicant’s consumer report after including a liability waiver in the same document as the disclosure to the applicant.

In amending FCRA in 1996 to require employer disclosure, “Congress was specifically concerned that … employers were obtaining and using consumer reports in a manner that violated job applicants’ privacy rights,” the panel wrote, especially in light of inaccurate information often contained in reports.  The law requires an employer to disclose that it may obtain an applicant’s credit report and enables the applicant to withhold authorization, or to warn the employer that the report might contain errors. Continue reading

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Americans love our convenience, but it often comes with a cost, even when we’re not aware of it. One example of the ways in which food manufacturers have catered to this desire for convenience is by selling pre-grated parmesan cheese so that it’s ready to go straight from the grocery store into a recipe or on top of pasta. It makes shopping for and using parmesan cheese much easier, but there’s a catch. There’s no way of knowing if what you’re eating is really cheese.

In 2012 the FDA found evidence that Castle Cheese Inc. was including non-dairy substances in its Parmesan cheese products. The FDA issued stern warnings, including accusations that Castle’s products marketed as Parmesan and romano were actually a mixture of various cheeses and other ingredients.

Castle, which insists that their consumers were never harmed and that it was merely a mislabeling issue, eventually went bankrupt. but the allegations against Castle have spread to other manufacturers of grated parmesan cheese.

One of the most common additives to grated parmesan is cellulose, an anti-clumping agent made from wood chips. Acceptable levels of cellulose range from 2-4%, but the FDA’s investigations have found much higher concentrations in various food products. Continue reading

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Everyone loves a good deal and retailers know that. It is extremely popular to see online retailers include a price for an item that is higher than the price they’re selling it for. Names for the higher price range from “suggested retail price” to “list price” to the more vague “estimated value”. By listing a higher price next to their own price, the retailers give the impression that they’re giving their customers a deal, but how do customers really know they’re getting a deal?

Many customers simply take the retailer’s word for it while others take the age-old advice for customers to do their research, shop around, and compare prices. Recent comparisons of “discounted” items on sites like Amazon and Overstock.com failed to find any retailer that sold the item for the list price. Comparisons also found that the “list price” varied from site to site, even when the actual price it was sold for was the same at each retailer.

Because giving customers the impression they’re getting a deal can make them more likely to click that “Buy” button, many customers feel deceived when they find out they paid the same price as everyone else at other retailers. This sense of betrayal has resulted in several consumer class action lawsuits with allegations of false advertising. Continue reading