Week Adjourned: 4.24.15 – Match.com, Turbo Tax, Generic Provigil

Match dot com logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Match.com has managed to light a fire under one customer’s arse—so much so that said person has filed a proposed consumer fraud class action alleging the dating site is in violation of state law for failing to inform clients that they can end their service agreements by sending a letter to the company. Well, their tagline says “Start your love story”…kinda the Hotel California (all due respect to the Eagles) of taglines there… And who knew?

Filed in California federal court by Plaintiff Zeke Graf, the Match.com lawsuit alleges that in 2012, when Graf joined Match.com, the company’s contract did not cite a notice required by California law stating that new customers can cancel their contracts within three business days by sending a letter.

Additionally, Graf’s complaint maintains that a consumer can cancel their contract with a dating service at any time, should it fail to comply with the law. Match’s contract stated otherwise, according to the suit.

“In fact, defendant’s contract explicitly stated that plaintiff’s subscription with defendant would remain active until the end of plaintiff’s subscription period following plaintiff’s cancellation of said dating service contract,” the complaint states.

Therefore, Graf contends, Match.com is forcing Californian daters to enter into contracts that require them to waive protections granted under state law, and this has been taking place for at least the past four years.

According to the complaint, through its contract practices, Match.com is running a scheme to make “money from California consumers through false, deceptive, and misleading means.”

“Defendant had other reasonably available alternatives to further its legitimate business interest, other than the conduct described herein, such as adequately disclosing the notice of consumers’ rights to cancel contacts with defendant,” the complaint states.

Heads up all you unhappy matcher.commers….Graf seeks to represent a class of California consumers who bought subscriptions to Match.com during the past four years and whose contracts failed to include their cancellation notice rights.

The case is Graf v. Match.com LLC, case number 2:15-cv-02913 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

As if filing your taxes wasn’t painful enough, now there are allegations that Intuit Inc, the software run by Turbo Tax, failed to protect people from, yes you guessed it, data breaches. In fact, a putative class action was filed this week against Intuit Inc alleging the maker of the tax-preparation software was negligent in failing to protect them from identity theft by not safeguarding sensitive personal data. The complaint, filed by Turbo Tax users, claims Intuit’s actions resulted in billions of dollars in tax fraud.

Specifically, the Turbo Tax lawsuit, filed by lead plaintiffs Christine Diaz and Michelle Fugatt, claims Intuit’s lax controls placed revenue over ethics, leaving customers susceptible to third-party tax fraud. Further, the complaint states the despite a recent surge in fraudulent tax returns and massive data breaches, Intuit failed to correct the problem or properly report fraudulent tax filings to the IRS for fear of losing revenue.

“Plaintiffs allege that defendant’s negligent mishandling of fraudulent tax filings facilitated the theft of billions of tax dollars by cybercriminals by allowing thousands of fraudulent tax returns to be filed through use of its software,” the complaint states.

One month ago, Intuit stated it had received inquiries from the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission investigating earlier reports that 19 states had identified fraudulent returns using TurboTax software.

In February, Intuit temporarily stopped its state e-filing return program following announcements by Alabama, Minnesota and Utah departments of revenue that they had flagged TurboTax returns because of fraudulent activity.

According to the complaint, Intuit controls about 60 percent of the self-preparation software market. Terrific.

Diaz, who used TurboTax for a 2010 federal return and Ohio state return, learned in January 2015 that fraudulent state tax filings had been filed, purportedly on her behalf, in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma, plus a federal filing with the IRS.

According to the lawsuit, Diaz received a $242.75 bill from TurboTax for e-flings that were allegedly not hers. She claims she had not entered any information in TurboTax’s system since 2011.

The complaint goes on to state that Intuit advised Diaz’s husband that fraudulent filings were made on her behalf but the company had not followed up to resolve the matter. Diaz is no longer eligible for electronic filing of her tax returns and is subject to ongoing credit monitoring.

According to the complaint, the exact number of plaintiffs is unknown but may be in the thousands as fraudulent tax filings in TurboTax customers’ names were generated and potentially millions of TurboTax customers’ data has been accessed.

The complaint, which accuses Intuit of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and Customer Records Act, as well as negligence and breach of contract, seeks damages as well as an injunction ordering Intuit to step up its security procedures, among other relief.

“Rather than protecting customers’ personal and financial information by implementing stricter security measures, TurboTax has instead knowingly facilitated identity theft tax refund fraud by allowing cybercriminals easy access to its customers’ most private information,” the complaint states.

FYI—The case is Christine Diaz and Michelle Fugatt et al v. Intuit Inc., case number 5:15-cv-01778, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Top Settlements 

You delay you pay… Bingo! A $512 million settlement agreement has been reached in an antitrust lawsuit pending against Cephalon Pharmaceuticals. The lawsuit alleged the defendant delayed the introduction of a generic version of the drug Provigil into the market. Nice.

According to court documents, the agreement was reached between the class of direct purchasers and defendants Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. and Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. The other defendants in the case, Mylan Laboratories Inc. and Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., were not included in the settlement.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs claimed that the settling defendants, referred to in the agreement as the Cephalon defendants, “violated federal antitrust law by wrongfully delaying the introduction of generic versions of the prescription drug Provigil (modafinil), a drug indicated for the treatment of certain sleep disorders.” The defendants did not admit liability in the agreement.

The class was defined as “all persons or entities in the United States and its territories who purchased Provigil in any form directly from Cephalon at any time during the period from June 24, 2006, through August 31, 2012.”

The agreement further states that up to 33-and-a-third percent of the overall payout will be sought as compensation. Incentive awards of $100,000 per named plaintiffs, specifically, King Drug Co. of Florence, Rochester Drug Cooperative Inc. and Burlington Drug Company Inc., and $50,000 each for Meijer Distribution Inc. and SAJ Distributors Inc.

Hokee Dokee- That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.17.15 – Source Naturals, Southwest Airlines, HAMP Mortgages

Source Naturals LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Source Naturals a little light on the content? According to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed this week, it is. The plaintiff alleges the amounts of vitamins and minerals in the vitamins are inaccurate.

In her Source Naturals complaint, Jennifer Dougherty alleges she purchased the products online for about $20 in November. According to the lawsuit, Source Naturals advertised that its multivitamins contained 12,500 IU per serving of vitamin A. Dougherty claims that the amounts of the of six vitamins and minerals in its multivitamins were off by as much as 90 percent, which was shown in tests. Those same tests also revealed that the vitamin B-3 contained in the product was about 19 percent less than represented; calcium per serving was about 22 percent less; zinc was under by about 24 percent; manganese was under by about 36 percent; and magnesium was under by about 12 percent than what Source Naturals claimed, according to the lawsuit.

The Source Naturals lawsuit is seeking class action status for those that purchased the multivitamins and seeks less than $5 million plus court costs. The $5 million figure represents a threshold for removal under the Class Action Fairness Act.

Southwest Early Bird Check-In a scam? At least one passenger thinks so. Teri Lowry filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations the airline misleads customers into purchasing early flight check-ins, billed as “Early-Bird” priority boarding.

Specifically, the Southwest Airlines lawsuit contends that the airline deceived her into purchasing an “Early-Bird” priority boarding cost for a flight she took in March 2014 from Los Angeles to Indianapolis.

Lowry claims she purchased a “Wanna Get Away” ticket offered by Southwest, and then added on the “Early-Bird Check-in” feature for $25 roundtrip. She states in her lawsuit that she purchased the feature based on previous experience when she traveled with Southwest and received a “B” boarding group assignment.

The lawsuit states that when Lowry contacted others who had received a higher boarding position than she did for her trip to Indianapolis, none of them had purchased the “Early Bird Check-In.”

According to the complaint, Southwest Airlines allocates boarding in the order in which a customer checks in online, with boarding broken into three groups of about 60 board positions each. According to the lawsuit, Southwest Airlines’ website states customers can obtain an A boarding position by purchasing an “Early Bird Check-in.”

In her complaint, Lowry alleges Southwest’s website says customers who purchased “Anytime” fares receive priority over other fare types including “Early Bird Check-ins.” The lawsuit alleges that contradicts other areas of the website that say “Anytime” or “Wanna Get Away” fares don’t have priority over other fares.

Top Settlements

A $4.5 million settlement has been reached in a consumer banking deceptive practices violations class action lawsuit against a unit of Morgan Stanley (Saxon). The lawsuit was filed by homeowners who allege the finance company denied thousands of California homeowners new terms through the federal Home Affordable Modification Plan (HAMP), which they claim resulted in some people losing their homes.

The Morgan Stanley HAMP settlement is preliminary and requires final approval, which, if granted, would pay the approximate 2,705 class members an average of $1,663 each. According to court documents, the settlement represented about 15 percent of the roughly $30 million in total trial payments made by the class.

According to the lawsuit, plaintiff Marie Gaudin alleged Saxon delayed processing her loan while urging her to make trial payments as part of its Home Affordable Modification Program, meant for homeowners who were behind on loan payments. Saxon later pulled the offer of permanent loan modification without cause, according to the lawsuit.

If approved, 1,365 class members who lost their homes after Saxon denied them permanent loan modifications would be paid back. All class members would receive a base award of approximately $184, with tiered payments being made to those who lost their homes in foreclosures or short sales without being offered loan modifications, and to those who entered into alternative modifications elsewhere.

The class is defined as California borrowers who entered into HAMP TPPs with Saxon through October 1, 2009, and made at least three trial period payments but did not receive HAMP loan modifications.

Ok—that’s it for this week—see you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.10.15 – Popular Wines, Cruise Texts, AT&T

Sutter HomeTop Class Action Lawsuits

Have your hangovers been getting worse recently? Ok—you don’t have to answer, but maybe—just maybe—it’s not only you… A defective products class action lawsuit has been filed against 28 California wineries alleging that they produced wine which contains dangerously high levels of arsenic, in violation of California law. Nothing like a bit of poison to help the relaxation process.

Don’t know how the ball got rolling, but someone/entity had a total 1,306 different types of wine tested by BeverageGrades in Denver. The results showed that 83 wines had dangerously elevated levels of inorganic arsenic. Two additional labs confirmed the results. According to the arsenic in wine lawsuit, some of the wines contained arsenic levels in excess of the safe daily intake limit by 500%. Oh great.

And the news gets worse, because the majority of the wines listed in the complaint are inexpensive white or blush varieties, including Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Popular brands named in the lawsuit include Franzia, Sutter Home, Wine Cube, Cupcake, Beringer and Vendange.

The lawsuit is seeking “injunctive relief, civic penalties, disgorgement and damages.”

Time to take up cocktails.

“All aboard whose coming aboard”…The operators of two cruise lines were hit with a Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) class action lawsuit, alleging they’ve been sending unsolicited text messages to thousands of people’s cellular phones. And that’s not annoying, right?

Consolidated World Travel Inc., which does business as both Holiday Cruise Line and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, is the named defendant in the suit, which was filed by plaintiff Jason Huhn. The cruise text complaint alleges the Florida-based company sent Huhn an automated text message on his cellphone in March 2014 offering a free cruise. Free cruise? Really?

Huhn alleges the company never asked him for his consent to send him advertisements. “Defendants sent similar text messages to thousands of individuals nationwide using an automatic dialing system and without the consent of those individuals,” the complaint states. “At no point did plaintiff consent to receiving such text messages. At no point did plaintiff enter into a business relationship with defendants.”

According to the complaint, CWT sends automated text messages to individuals advertising a “free cruise” and providing a phone number that an individual must call to redeem the cruise. When the number in the text message is called, the caller is connected with a company identifying itself as “Travel Services.” The operator explains that he or she sees the caller is calling about a free cruise, and immediately “transfers” the caller to “Holiday Cruise Line,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit also names the cruise line’s Tampa-based marketing firm, Elite Marketing Inc., as well as CWT owner James H. Verrillo as defendants. 

Top Settlements

Who said what you don’t know can’t hurt you? Well, Expose did sing it but…who knew about this? AT&T must pony up $25 million to resolve claims by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the phone carrier failed to adequately safeguard personal data of approximately 300,000 customers. The data was stolen from call centers in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines. Read: massive data breach.

According to the FCC, employees at call centers used by AT&T in the three countries accessed records belonging to roughly 280,000 U.S. customers without authorization. Those records were accessed without authorization, in order to obtain names, full or partial Social Security numbers and other protected account-related data. Terrific.

FYI—Those data are also known as customer proprietary network information, which require requests for handset unlock codes for AT&T mobile phones.

The FCC alleged in its complaint that the call center employees provided that data to unauthorized third parties, which included an entity that went by the alias El Pelon in Mexico, who appeared to have been trafficking in stolen or secondary market phones that they wanted to unlock. That entity allegedly used the information to make more than 290,000 unlock requests through AT&T’s website. Ringing any bells?

According to the terms of the settlement, AT&T, in addition to the $25 million penalty for the alleged violations of Sections 222 and 201 of the Communications Act, must also improve its privacy and data security practices by appointing a senior compliance manager who is a certified privacy professional, conducting a privacy risk assessment, implementing an information security program, preparing an appropriate compliance manual and regularly training employees on the company’s privacy policies and the applicable privacy legal authorities. You think? 

Hokee Dokee- That’s a wrap folks…See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 4.4.15 – Toyota Camry, Babies R Us, JP Morgan Chase

Toyota LogoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Heads up Toyota Camry owners! The car maker is facing a defective products class action lawsuit alleging the car maker was aware of a defect in its Camry models that causes the cars’ air conditioning system to become moldy, emitting foul odors and potentially causing health problems.

Filed in Los Angeles earlier this week, the Toyota Camry lawsuit claims that Toyota’s 2012 Camry models have a “uniform and widespread defect” in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems that causes emissions of noxious and foul odors from the growth of mold in the system.

“Defendant has actively concealed and failed to disclose this defect to plaintiff and class members at the time of their purchase or lease of the class vehicles and thereafter,” the complaint states.

Further, the lawsuit contends that the affected Camry models’ HVAC system contains one or more design or manufacturing defect that causes the emissions of the bad odors from the mold. The plaintiffs allege that exposure to mold and its related smells is “extremely dangerous” and can lead to sickness, nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing and other health problems. Well, if it smells bad, it can’t be good for you, right?

The mold emanating from the HVAC system in the 2012 Toyota Camry vehicles allegedly grows on a part known as the evaporator, which is located inside the car dashboard. When cold refrigerant passes into the evaporator, it absorbs heat from the air in the passenger compartment and collects moisture from condensation, which creates a favorable growing condition for mold, the complaint claims.

When a consumer complains of the mold build-up in his or her Camry, Toyota “merely replaces” the defective HVAC components with the very same components, and doesn’t repair the defect, in violation of warranty, according to the lawsuit.

According to the plaintiffs, Toyota knew, or should have known, about the defect as early as 1997. However, the automaker “actively concealed” the defect and didn’t inform consumers.

Further, the complaint states that Toyota had “already offered” previous model year Camry vehicles that had similar HVAC systems and acknowledged the defects as early as 1997 and as recently as 2009.

The complaint seeks certification of a class of California purchasers of 2012 Camry vehicles.

Who’s really reaping the rewards here? Babies “R” Us, according to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations its rewards program was misleading and misrepresented what consumers actually receive when purchasing items from the retailer.

Filed by Stacy Tongate, the Babies R Us lawsuit claims that the Endless Earnings program promoted and run by Babies “R” Us offers shoppers up to 10 percent back on registry items purchased. The program, the lawsuit contends , is run in order to attract more customers to use the baby registry services.

According to the complaint, the popular children’s toy store launched the program in April 2014, offering benefits with no limits. However, The company in fact offers five percent of the first $300 spent by consumers. After the first $300, consumers are bumped up to 10 percent, Tongate claims.

The lawsuit is seeking class status for those who made purchases during the Endless Earnings program’s duration.

Top Settlements 

JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pony up $950,000 …according to the terms of a preliminary settlement agreement reached in a California labor law class action lawsuit.The lawsuit was filed by the company’s California underwriters who alleged the bank failed to pay overtime and provide proper breaks. No comment.

The proposed agreement potentially ends the three-year-old lawsuit, which was filed by two loan modification underwriters who worked at a Chase location north of San Diego. They alleged the bank was in violation of federal and state labor laws and that they suffered from overwhelming workload requirements. Filed in 2012, by plaintiffs Mary Loeza and Angie Reveles, the suit claims that Chase saddled its underwriters with unrealistic quotas for processing mortgage loan modification applications that they could not achieve without working overtime.

The plaintiffs further claimed that Chase had a strict policy on approval of overtime and would punish employees who worked it without authorization, leaving employees to work off-the-clock and through meal breaks and rest periods to meet the elevated quota, according to the settlement agreement.

“Based on their knowledge of this action, plaintiffs determined that the settlement would constitute the best outcome for class members,” court documents state. “Likewise, Chase concluded that this action should be settled in order to avoid the expense, inconvenience and burden of further legal proceedings, and the uncertainties of trial and appeal.”

The proposed class consists of approximately 838 current and former Chase employees who worked at the bank between December 11, 2008, and the date the judge preliminarily approves the agreement. If certified, the settlement will see each class member receive a share of the settlement funds, fees and expenses are paid. 

Hokee Dokee—That’s a wrap folks… Happy Easter! Go celebrate!