A dispute is emerging between merchants around the country and credit card companies that have implemented the new chip readers that are intended to cut down on identity fraud. The conflict is evidenced in California by a recent class action filed in federal court by three merchants against big credit card companies. The lawsuit generally raises issues of consumer fraud against defendant companies that include Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express and others.
Class-action lawsuits in California and other states can serve a very useful purpose with respect to protecting consumers. For example, in one recent case a plaintiff filed a class-action complaint against Dollar General, the well-known discount retailer, alleging consumer fraud in the marketing of a motor oil that it sells in its stores. The DG oil brand that Dollar General sells has a statement on the can that says it "lubricates and protects your engine."
Several class action claims against a giant food retailer were recently filed in federal district courts. The lawsuits are in the nature of consumer fraud claims alleging that national franchiser Dunkin' Donuts illegally taxed consumers on the purchase of coffee bean bags that were purchased to take home. State tax laws allegedly provide that such purchases cannot be taxed. It is unknown whether California stores would be involved in future claims, but the claims filed so far involve about a dozen different stores in other states.
In California and other states, deceptive labeling of food products often is a basis for a consumer class action claim of fraud. The same is true of pet foods that contain deceptive labeling. A dog owner in another state recently filed two separate but virtually identical class action lawsuits claiming consumer fraud violations against Nestle and Wellpet, two major national dog food manufacturers and marketers.
In some class action lawsuits, the defendant (usually a company or corporation) will offer the main plaintiffs named in the lawsuit full compensation. Why would the defendant do such a thing? In a legal tactic and effort to avoid having to pay all members in a class action lawsuit, the full compensation to the main plaintiff only could automatically end the lawsuit, stopping the class action lawsuit altogether. This tactic worked for some defendants in the past. However, it will no longer work due to a recent Supreme Court decision.
One practice that is almost universally disapproved of by consumers is the use of autodial marketing pitches received on their cellphones and by text messages from companies to whom consent was never given. The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits advertising campaigns to be sent to cellular telephone numbers, including as text messages, unless the consumer has provided unambiguous prior written consent. This protection against consumer fraud and harassment has been effective in California and other states since Oct. 2013.
You may have heard about consumer woes back in 2012, when iPhone users switched to Android phones. Some consumers who made the switch complained that they were unable to send texts or receive texts from other iPhone users. This caused three plaintiffs to file a class action lawsuit against Apple, claiming a violation of the Federal Wire Tap Act. The lawsuit finally came to a halt today after a federal judge made a decision.
Some people may not remember the ill-fated Trump University that halted operations in 2010 when students in several states joined in two class-action lawsuits in federal court, claiming that the online, unlicensed school was a sham of false promises and false advertisements. The cases are now inching toward trial in a federal court in California where the judge ruled that the students have a right to have the allegations heard by a jury. The case has been an albatross of consumer fraud allegations that has trailed the presidential candidate throughout his appearances in the past several months.
A product intensively advertised by cable TV direct marketing ads and online is feeling the heat recently as the parties involved fight a class action claim filed in a federal court located in California. The case is joined in by 200 women from throughout the nation. The plaintiffs claim that the WEN hair care products have caused them severe damage, including bald spots, rashes and abnormal hair loss. The defendants in this consumer fraud class action include Chaz Dean, the celebrity hairstylist, and Guthy-Renker, the high-powered marketing distributor of the products.
The federal government, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has the authority to regulate the labeling and marketing of organic foods. It also gives permission to retailers to affix the word 'organic' on the labels of approved products. For that reason, a California state court ruled that a consumer could not bring a state class action against a grower and seller of herbs that billed its herbs as being 100 percent organic. The plaintiff alleged that the seller committed consumer fraud because it knew that it was really marketing a product that had non-organic materials mixed in with organic.