Week Adjourned: 8.13.10

Top Class Actions

No Answer for No Answer Charges? A couple of major players in the telecommunications game got hit with class actions this week. First up—AT&T. The suit alleges violations of federal truth-in-billing laws, false advertising and deceptive trade practices under New York law, and breach of contract, among other things. 

Lead plaintiff, Los Angeles resident Kenneth Thelian, claims he was charged $12.90 partly for calls that he did not answer. He allegedly complained to AT&T who reversed $8 of the charges, but the company representative “did not adequately explain why these charges were incurred.”

Thelian faced a further $15.81 in roaming charges while traveling in Montreal, Canada in August 2005, again for calls he did not answer. Then, in February and March of 2007, Thelian was billed $92.72. “The bill did not indicate which of these charges were for calls that he did not answer while traveling abroad,” the suit alleges. 

So, maybe time to be checking those phone bills…

And, second up—T-Mobile. This class action alleges that the company puts limits on its unlimited data plan. Ummm. who would have thought…

The suit claims that advertisements for T-Mobile’s “Unlimited Web & E-mail” plans, offered for both Blackberry and other brands of smartphones, promise the consumer access to an “unlimited” amount of data. And, the plans offer a discount on new phones if consumers agree to sign a contract—the carrot with the hook.

The lead plaintiff in the suit, Trent Alvarez, claims he bought two smartphones in 2009 and signed a two year contract for each phone. Those plans, he alleges, were sold to him as unlimited data plans. However, in May 2010, Alvarez received a text message stating “Your data usage in this billing cycle has exceeded 10GB; Data throughput [speed] for the remainder of the cycle may be reduced to 50kbps or less.” Alvarez claims that this renders his phones “essentially useless for anything other than making or receiving phone calls and text messages.”

Any of this sound familiar? 

Top Settlements

This one was all over the news this week, Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer, has agreed to a tentative settlement in the class action suit over alleged defective drywall.

Under the terms of the settlement Lowe’s has agreed to give out $6.5 million in gift cards and pay up to $2.2 million in attorney fees, according to the Wall Street Journal. Plaintiffs claim similar difficulties with the drywall they purchased from Lowe’s as has been cited in other cases, namely a sulfurous odor and the tarnishing of metal in the home. Under the settlement, the company admits to no wrongdoing.

The WSJ is reporting that Lowe’s maintains that the drywall it sold is not defective Chinese Drywall. In an email statement, the company said, “Lowe’s has been assured by vendors who provided stock drywall for sales in our stores that drywall they provided was not imported from China. But the settlement includes claims of all types of allegedly defective drywall people claim to have purchased from Lowe’s.” 

Astra Zeneca (AZ), announced more settlements—17,500 US-based personal injury claims to be precise—brought by people who took their antipsychotic medication Seroquel and allege it caused them to develop diabetes. The amount of the settlement is $198 million. According to a report on Reuters, the average settlement per claim is $11,300. These settlements follow on from several thousand claims settled in early August. A further 2,900 cases were dismissed. 

Ok. That’s it for this week. I hear the bar calling my name…

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