Week Adjourned: 9.1.17 – Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Wild Planet Tuna

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Does the term “Rate Lock Fees“ mean anything to you? Well, read on. Wells Fargo is facing a consumer banking class action lawsuit over charging improper mortgage-related fees to its customers. Specifically, the Wells Fargo mortgage loan lawsuit claims that home loan borrowers were being charged extra fees when their applications were delayed, even if the bank was the cause of the delay. Your first clue.

Filed in federal court in San Francisco, the lawsuit centers around fees known as rate-lock extension fees. These fees are charged, according to the allegations, when a borrower applies for a mortgage for which the lender promises a set interest rate, as long as the loan is approved within a certain time period, typically between 30 and 45 days. If the loan takes longer to approve, the borrower must pay a fee to keep the previously promised rate. Seriously.

As with most lenders, Wells Fargo is supposed to waive the fee if it is responsible for holdups. Borrowers only pay the fee if they are responsible for the delays by, for instance, failing to submit documents on time.

According to the allegations in the lawsuit, Victor Muniz, a Las Vegas security guard, was charged a rate lock extension fee by Wells Fargo of $287.50, despite the delays in his mortgage approval being caused by the bank and despite Muniz being told by a Wells Fargo banker that he would not have to pay the fee.

Muniz asserts that Wells Fargo was responsible for the delays approving his application partially because they hired an appraiser who was out of the country while Muniz’s mortgage application was being processed. Muniz has brought the suit on behalf of himself and all other borrowers who may have paid improper fees. 

Top Settlements 

TD Bank Penny Arcade Update… There’s a settlement – it’s received preliminary approval. So get your pencils out – time to file a claim. Of course, TD Bank denies any liability or wrongdoing, and the Court has not decided which side is right. However, to settle the case and avoid the costs and risks of litigation, TD Bank has agreed to a settlement.

Here’s the skinny: consumers who used a Penny Arcade machine at a TD Bank store between April 11, 2010 and July 12, 2017, may be entitled to a cash payment from the class action settlement.

Reportedly, TD Bank will calculate the amount each TD Bank customer would receive by using its records to determine the amount of Penny Arcade usage by those consumers. TD would multiply that sum by 0.26 percent to determine a customer’s distribution, or payment.

If you conducted a Penny Arcade transaction during the Class Period at a time when you did not hold a TD Bank Account, you must submit a Claim Form by October 27, 2017 to be eligible to receive a Settlement Payment based on such transaction(s).

If you conducted a Penny Arcade transaction during the Class Period at a time when you held a TD Bank checking, savings, personal loan, or business loan account (“Account”), you do not have to do anything to receive any Settlement Payment to which you are entitled.

Got Wild Planet and Sustainable Seas tins of Tuna? Well, heads up folks – a settlement has been reached in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against Wild Planet and Sustainable Seas alleging their tinned tuna products were deliberately under-filled to below the 5-ounce weight stated on the product labels.

Under terms of the tuna settlement, Wild Planet will create a settlement fund of $1.7 million, part of which will be distributed to Class Members eligible to claim benefits, which include all US residents who between November 5, 2011 and May 12, 2017 who purchased a can of tuna under the Wild Planet or Sustainable Seas brands.

Eligible class members can claim a cash payment of up to $29. This amount could be lower depending on the number of timely and valid claims received. The settlement payout could also be reduced if the cost of the claims administration is more than $350,000.

The case is Ehder Soto v. Wild Planet Foods Inc., Case No. 5:15-cv-05082, and Heney Shihad v. Wild Planet Foods Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-01478, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Ok – That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 6.30.17 – Tele Pay, Anthem, TD Bank

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Is Minimum Wage Enough? Likely not, but it would be a good start. This week, an unpaid wages and overtime class action lawsuit was filed against Tele Pay USA by a phone sex worker who alleges the company is paying her less than minimum wage, no overtime and not paying for “off- the-clock” work, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). How low is the bar?

Filed in California federal court, by lead plaintiff Anne Cannon, the complaint alleges that Cannon and other workers similarly situated are making $6 per hour, but if their average call times drop below six minutes, their hourly rate also drops, to $4.20 per hour. According the lawsuit, Tele Pay is making $5 per minute.

“Plaintiff’s average hourly rate is below $6.00,” the lawsuit states. “The minimum wage in the state of Florida, the state in which she works, is $8.10 per hour. Anywhere in the nation, the average amount received by Ms. Cannon is far below the allowed national and state minimum wage.” 

Tele Pay describes itself as a “booking agent” negotiating engagements on behalf of “actors” who are looking to provide “entertainment services.” However, according to the complaint, this is not the reality. Cannon, an employee of Tele Pay, was hired to field calls and keep callers on the line through sexually explicit talk for a fee that goes directly from the caller to Tele Pay, according to the lawsuit. 

“She is required by Tele Pay to stay in her home within reach of her personal computer and land-line telephone for certain periods of time so that she is available to field calls from Tele Pay’s customers,” the lawsuit claims.

Get this, according to the Tele Pay lawsuit, if Cannon can’t keep her call times up, she is paid less. A person who goes by the name “Don” regularly gives pointers to Tele Pay phone sex workers on how to keep their average call times up. “Remember, it’s not how many calls you take, but how long you keep these guys on the phone!” Don allegedly tells the plaintiffs.

However, Cannon states in the complaint that often its beyond her ability to keep the callers on the phone: Prank calls, dropped calls or calls plagued by technical errors still count toward her average call times, even if they last only seconds, the lawsuit claims.

Further, Cannon alleges it is impossible for her to know that she’s being fairly compensated, as she doesn’t see the hours she’s logged or the average call time until the next day, and even that is an “estimate.” Her actual call times are allegedly calculated every Sunday.

She has often been asked to work in excess of 40 hours a week, without being compensated for overtime, the complaint states.

The proposed class action seeks to represent all Tele Pay phone-sex workers with similar wage claims dating back three years from the date of filing. Cannon is seeking an undetermined amount of back wages to make up for the alleged violations, post-judgment interest, and coverage of attorneys’ fees.

Well…work is work.

The case is Cannon et al. v. Tele Pay USA, case number 2:17-cv-04740, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

Top Settlements

It’s a Record Breaker! A $115 million settlement has been reached in the Anthem data breach class action lawsuit. The case was brought by 80 million consumers who had their personal data compromised in the massive 2015 data breach.

The Anthem data breach settlement is the largest on record for a data breach class action lawsuit. Under the terms of the deal, the funds will be used to provide credit protection and reimbursement for damages. Specifically, the settlement fund will provide two years of credit monitoring, pay for customers’ out-of-pocket expenses stemming from the data breach, and provide cash compensation to customers who’ve already purchased their own credit monitoring, according to the Associated Press (AP).

If approved, Anthem must also guarantee a certain amount of funding for information security and to make certain changes to its data security systems.

The health insurance company announced in February 2015 that it had been victim of a cyber attack, potentially exposing personal information of up to 80 million people. According to a statement from Anthem, customer names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, street addresses and employment information were accessed by the hackers. When Anthem announced the breach, however, it noted that financial information did not appear to have been accessed.

According to the lawsuit, Anthem, more than two dozen Anthem affiliates and 14 “non-Anthem” Blue Cross entities violated state and federal consumer protection laws by failing to protect the personal data that was stolen in a 2015 hack.

The case is In re Anthem Inc. Data Breach Litigation, case number 5:15-md-02617, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Counting Errors Getting Corrected? It’s not a done deal—yet—but hey, the penny has dropped. A proposed $9 million settlement has been reached potentially ending a consumer fraud class action lawsuit pending against TD Bank over allegations the bank’s count counting machines short-changed consumers.

If approved, the TD Bank settlement would provide $7.5 million in compensation for customers who were potentially shortchanged when using the machines in Penny Arcade machines from April 11, 2010, until they became unavailable in using the machines.

An investigative report in 2016, on NBC’s Today Show, revealed incorrect results when $300 in coins was placed in five randomly selected machines. That report was part of the disclosure used in the lawsuit.

TD Bank stopped using the machines in the wake of the NBC report and pulled them from its branches in May 2016.

Under the proposed terms of the settlement, people who were TD Bank customers at the time of Penny Arcade transactions “need not take any action to receive their distributions.” Penny Arcade users who remain TD customers will receive automatic payments into their accounts. Former customers and people who make written claims would receive checks in the mail.

Reportedly, TD Bank would calculate the amount each TD Bank customer would receive by using its records to determine the amount of Penny Arcade usage by those consumers. TD would multiply that sum by 0.26 percent to determine a customer’s distribution, or payment.

If approved, plaintiffs who used coin-machine but who did not have TD accounts, could submit written claims, subject to the approval of a settlement administrator. Claims unsupported by documentation would be limited to reimbursement of $500.

There are 13 named as plaintiffs in the consolidated class action lawsuit who would share a $50,000 payment. Any funds remaining after the payment of all claims and expenses would be shared among class members.

The proposed deal awaits court approval. 

Ok – That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!

Week Adjourned: 1.13.17 – Anheuser-Busch, TD Bank, Harmless Harvest

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Wage & Hour Lawsuit Brewing... Another year, another unpaid overtime class action lawsuit, likely one of many to come. This lawsuit has been brought against Anheuser-Busch (AB) alleging the brewer fails to provide proper rest breaks and adequate compensation for overtime for its delivery and store merchandise employees.

Filed by former temporary employee Jose Hernandez, the lawsuit claims that Hernandez’s wage statement did not differentiate between hours paid at the regular pay rate and those paid at an overtime pay rate. The lawsuit further claims that his total pay didn’t take into account the overtime he had worked.

Allegedly, AB also systematically denied its delivery and store merchandising workers their breaks and didn’t pay them for that time.

According to the allegations, Hernandez worked as a temporary employee setting up retail displays from August to October 2016, at a pay rate of $10.50 per hour. However, while working for AB, he was required to work through what was supposed to have been state-mandated break time. The defendant allegedly did not always pay Hernandez properly for the overtime and double time he was supposed to have earned, in violation of California labor law.

The hours worked in each pay period as listed on his wage statements didn’t add up to the total hours he had actually put in, and the company didn’t always compensate him for the overtime he worked, Hernandez claims.

Heads up – Hernandez is looking to represent a class of delivery and merchandising employees for Anheuser-Busch’s California business who received itemized wage statements, worked more than 3.5 hours without a break, or worked more than eight hours in a day from January 2013 to the present, according to the complaint.

The case is Jose Hernandez v. Anheuser-Busch LLC et al., case number BC646330, in the Superior Court for the State of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles. 

TD Facing OD Charge Lawsuit… OD as in “overdraft”. Like the banks aren’t making enough money. TD Bank got hit with a potential class action lawsuit alleging it “unlawfully” applies overdraft fees that penalize customers who don’t replenish their overdrawn bank accounts within 10 days. Read on…

Filed on behalf of Shaina Dorsey, the TD Bank lawsuit contends that the sustained overdraft charge of $20 is imposed on customers’ accounts after an initial charge of $35 for the overdraft itself, and exceeds the limit permitted by the National Bank Act.

“Unlike an initial overdraft fee, the Sustained Fee for Overdrawn Accounts is an additional charge to a customer for which the bank has provided nothing new in the way of services,” the lawsuit states. “The charge is based solely on the alleged indebtedness to the bank remaining unpaid by the customer for a period of time.”

According to the complaint, Dorsey’s checking account went into “overdraft” status in August 15, 2016 and remained that way until September 8, 2016. The $20 fee on August 26, 2016 was in addition to six other fees totaling $210 “for transactions that created her ‘overdraft’ status in the first place.” Ouch!!

The class action suit claims that the fees are technically interest charged at an illegal rate and, when factoring for the legally permitted rates, are tens of times greater than what could be imposed.

The lawsuit seeks plaintiffs who use TD Bank and were charged with the extended overdraft charges.

Go get ‘em!

Top Settlements

Harmless Harvest Harvesting Bucks Unfairly? The beverage company agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to end a pending consumer fraud class action lawsuit it’s facing over alleged false advertising.

FYI—the Harmless Harvest lawsuit claimed that the coconut water product packaging contained false and misleading statements that its Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water (later renamed Harmless Coconut Water), Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Dark Cacao, Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Cinnamon & Clove, and Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water Fair Trade Coffee were falsely labeled as “100 percent Organic” and “Raw”.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Harmless Harvest has agreed to have an independent third-party consultant watch over them for a period of two years from the effective date of the settlement. The consultant’s role  will involve reviewing product labels for ongoing accuracy (as they can’t do this in-house?) and provide reports to class counsel.

About the money…the company also agrees to bear the cost of the consulting fees. The company has also agreed to pay incentive awards to the named plaintiffs, totalling $20,000.

The proposed settlement class includes “all persons in the United States who made retail purchases of one of more of Harmless Harvest’s coconut water products in the United States at any time from September 30, 2011, through the date of Preliminary Approval.”

Don’t get excited just yet – the proposed settlement requires final court approval. The case is “Raw” Coconut Water Class Action Lawsuit is Guoliang Ma, et al. v. Harmless Harvest Inc., Case No. 2:16-cv-07102, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

We will keep you posted so watch this space for updates.

Well folks –that’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar.

Week Adjourned: 6/24/16 – TD Bank, Banana Boat, Whirlpool

TDTop Class Action Lawsuits

Canadians are Following Suit…literally, this week, by filing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit against Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank in Canada alleging that its “Penny Arcade” coin counting machines located across Canada shortchanged customers. The bank has faced lawsuits in the state over the very same issue.

Short version:  Plaintiff Lisa Ram (“Ram”), claims that on or about June 23, 2014, she used TD Bank’s coin counting machine in Kitchener, Ontario to count coin currency. Before taking them for deposit in the machine, Ram claims she counted and sorted them and knew she had a total of $854.25. After depositing the coins into TD Bank’s coin counter, she was not credited for amounts totaling $159.50. Despite complaining to the bank, Ram claims it failed to remedy her losses. So, who’s making money here?

According to the TD Bank complaint, customers using TD Bank’s coin counting machines expected the machines to operate accurately. However, based on its extensive experience with operating coin counting machines in its US branches since 2007, TD Bank knew or ought to have known that its coin counting machines were not capable of achieving accuracy for many reasons, resulting in undercounted funds of several percentage points in some cases. TD Bank failed to take any steps to warn customers of these risks, causing them harm.

Heads up Canadians—the class action is brought on behalf of a proposed class of persons who used TD Bank’s coin changing machines in Canada between January 1, 2013 and May 25, 2016.

Limited Protection? Meanwhile, back in the US, Banana Boat got hit with a consumer fraud class action lawsuit alleging its sunscreen  products do not contain the amount of sunscreen advertised. That is not cool.

According to plaintiff Paul Lambrakis, he bought tube of Banana Boat Kids SPF 50 in May after a Consumer Reports study found that it and many other sunscreens were overstating their protection factor. Lambrakis then sent the tube to a laboratory in Winston Salem, NC for testing, according to the lawsuit. The results showed that while the product stated it was SPF 50, it turned out to have less than half the sunscreen stated on the packaging.

The investigation concluded that Banana Boat Kids SPF 50 sunscreen, clearly labeled as containing SPF 50, shockingly contained only an SPF of 12.69 and a measured UVA protection factor of 4.88,” according to the lawsuit.

“Defendants have known, or should have known, for years that Banana Boat Kids SPF 50 products contain less UV protection than Defendants advertise,” the lawsuit states. Defendants named in the suit are Playtex Products, Edgewell Personal Care Company and Sun Pharmaceutical.

According to the complaint, Lambrakis and others in the class action suit were forced to “overpay for the sunscreen based upon false, inflated SPF.”

The lawsuit comes after a Consumer Reports investigation found that 43 percent of the more than 60 sunscreens they tested failed to measure up to the SPF claims advertised on their bottles.

“In May of 2016, Consumer Reports research revealed that among ‘the most problematic products were Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free Lotion…which [was] labeled as SPF 50 but [was] found to have only SPF 8,’” according to the complaint.

Did you buy and fry with Banana Boat sunscreens? 

Top Settlements

Whirlpool Washers finally Settle… Finally! Remember those moldy front loading washing machine lawsuits? Well—a settlement was reached this week, with defendants (“Whirlpool”) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (“Sears”).

So, if you purchased or owned a front-loading washing machine manufactured by Whirlpool, you may be entitled to cash or other compensation from a class action settlement.

Quick back story—the lawsuits alleged certain front-loading washing machines manufactured between 2001 and 2010 fail to self-clean and tend to accumulate bacteria and mold, resulting in bad odors and ruined laundry. Specifically, the lawsuit cites certain Whirlpool, Maytag or Kenmore front-loading washing machine that were manufactured by Whirlpool and are referred to as the “Class Washers”.

The Settlement Class includes all residents of the United States and its territories who either: (a) purchased a new Class Washer; (b) acquired a Class Washer as part of the purchase or remodel of a home; or (c), received a new Class Washer as a gift.

If you are included in the Settlement, you may qualify for one of a variety of benefits including a cash payment, a rebate on the purchase of a new washing machine or dryer, or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to past mold or odor problems in your washing machine.

In order to claim a Sears or Whirlpool settlement benefit, if you are qualified, you must complete and submit a Claim Form, including required documentation October 11, 2016.

Better go find those receipts!

Ok, that’s a wrap folks…Have a good one. See you at the Bar!

Week Adjourned: 9.21.12 – Arctic Zero, Payless Shoes, Citizens Bank, TD Bank

The weekly wrap on top class action lawsuits and settlements for the week ending September 21, 2012.

Top Class Action Lawsuits

Zero Truth? Before you take what you think may be a harmless mouthful of melt-in-your-mouth pleasure—namely Arctic Zero frozen desserts—WAIT—that ‘150 calorie per pint’ thing—may not be entirely accurate. At least that’s the claim in a consumer fraud class action lawsuit filed against Arctic Zero this week. The lawsuit claims the frozen desserts have 46% to 68% more calories than advertised. If this is true, it is seriously bad news for everyone.

The lawsuit, entitled Brenda Freeman v. Arctic Zero, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-2279 L BGS, US District, Southern District of California, alleges the company deceptively labels and markets its frozen treats as having only “150 calories per pint.” However, the frozen desserts contain up to 68% more calories than advertised based on findings from recent independent laboratory tests performed by EMSL Analytical, Inc. The deserts include Arctic Zero Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Arctic Zero Vanilla Maple which allegedly has 46% more calories than the 150 calories prominently advertised on the front of the product packaging as well as on its nutritional label, according to the class action lawsuit.

The Arctic Zero class action lawsuit is seeking to represent a proposed class of all U.S. persons who, since 2009, purchased any Arctic Zero frozen desserts advertised as containing 150 calories per pint or less. They’re seeking damages and restitution for Class Members as well as an injunction barring Arctic Zero from continuing to falsely advertise the calorie content of their products.

Top Settlements

Payless to PayMore? Payless shoes looks set to pay more to settle fraudulent advertising claims for its Champion toning shoes. A proposed settlement (the “Settlement Agreement”) has been reached in the consumer fraud class action lawsuit against Payless ShoeSource, Inc. (“Payless” or “Defendant”). The Payless toning shoe lawsuit has been brought on behalf of a nationwide class of persons who purchased any Champion-branded style of toning shoes.

The lawsuit alleges that Payless engaged in untrue and deceptive advertising promotion and marketing practices associated with its Champion-brand toning shoes. You may be a member of the Settlement Class and might be eligible to receive a merchandise certificate worth $8.00 if you are a person who purchased any Champion-branded toning shoes during the period January 21, 2006 through June 25, 2012.

If you are a Settlement Class member and the Court gives final approval to the Settlement Agreement:

  • You may be entitled to receive an $8.00 merchandise certificate (a “Settlement Payment”).
  • You will be giving up the right to bring certain legal claims in the future, as discussed more fully below.

To Submit a Payless Toning Shoe Settlement Claim Form

If you are a Settlement Class member and would like to receive your Settlement Payment, you must submit a Claim Form, either through the mail or by by clicking here. You will be giving up legal claims against the Defendant and other related entities. Your claim must be submitted or postmarked no later than January 5, 2013.

If you do nothing, you will not receive your Settlement Payment. You will, however, still be giving up legal claims against Defendant and other related entities.

To Exclude Yourself from the Payless Toning Shoe Settlement

You will receive no benefits, but you will not be giving up your right to sue Defendant or related entities.

If you believe you are a Settlement Class member and would like further information, go to paylesstoningshoeclassaction.com

More bang on your buck? Umm, maybe not. Hopefully not. It all depends on whether or not preliminary settlements are approved in two class actions brought against Citizens and TD Banks.

This week, a federal judge in Miami preliminary approved two settlements in the excessive overdraft fees class action lawsuits against Citizens Bank and TD Bank. If approved, Citizens and TD Banks would be the first two of 14 banks to settle their cases. The settlement agreement will see Citizens pay $137.5 million and TD $62 million. Cha ching!

The lawsuit alleged the banks charged excessive overdraft fees on checking account customers. Specifically, the banks’ internal computer system re-sequenced the actual order of its customers’ debit card and ATM transactions, by posting them in highest-to-lowest dollar amount rather than in the actual order in which they were initiated by customers and authorized by the bank. The plaintiffs alleged that this practice resulted in bank customers being charged substantially more in overdraft fees than if the debit card and ATM transactions had been posted in the order in which they were initiated and authorized.

A final hearing seeking approval of the settlements is scheduled for March 7, 2013.

Okee dokee. That’s it for this week—See you at the bar.