September was a great month, here is a small recap of actions filed over the last few weeks both nationally and in California. Class actions highlights from California include multiple civil rights actions involving the Counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino of charging excessive rates to inmates and their families; Amazon for possibly misclassifying delivery drivers as independent contractors; LG television products may not be energy efficient; an action brought under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. And that’s just in California.
Nationally, the consumer class actions were filed against Urban Outfitters for allegedly violating the D.C. Consumer Protection Act; Verizon for false claims to customers involving “set-top boxes” requirement; and Massage Envy for alleged “one hour massages” actually only being 50 minutes; and a nutrition supplement for making false claims about a liquid protein product.
California Civil Rights Class Actions – Inmate Phone Calls
Multiple civil rights actions were filed last week alleging that Ventura, Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange County jail inmates, most of whom are not convicted but facing charges, are held hostage to grossly unfair and excessive phone charges, forcing family members of the inmates to pay these charges in order to maintain contact with their loved ones. These charges are nothing but a money making scheme by the Counties the complaint alleges.
California Misclassification – Amazon and Action Messenger
Amazon and Action Messenger were sued by an alleged misclassified former delivery driver for wage and hour violations. Amazon showed power over the Action Messenger independent contractors by providing uniforms, controlled schedules, and provided the delivery drivers supplies and equipment. Amazon could be held liable for the wage and hour violations, along with Action Messenger.
California Consumer Cases” LG and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
LG Electronics USA allegedly failed to disclose that its energy star-certified televisions disable energy savings features wherever users adjust the main picture setting according to a class action for warranty, unfair business, contract, unjust enrichment, bad faith and fraud. The energy settings are a specific setting delineated in with most electronics, so it may become a trend to see more automatic warning pop-ups when changing the setting to alert consumers that their custom or other pre-programmed settings will use up more electricity.
A class action for violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act was filed against Adore Organic Innovations and its owner, Shay Sabag Sagev in U.S.D.C. Northern California for falsely claiming that their Adore Products “halt the aging process.” The products claim to be “plant stem cells” but are really a proprietary ingredient manufactured by Mibelle Biochemestriy of Switzerland called PhytoCell Tec. The complaint goes on to describe that PhytoCell Tec is an ingredient often included in lower cost products compared to the premium prices of Adore Products. The plaintiff Veronica Munoz alleges that she believed Adore Products contained “plant stem cells” and was tricked by the company’s false claims.
D.C. Consumer Protection Act – Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie
Both Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie allegedly required D.C. customers to enter their zip code and customers believed that they needed to do so in order to complete the transaction, according to a class action lawsuit filed by Whitney Hancock. Often retailer will do this in order to collect information about their customers, mostly for marketing and advertising purposes.
In California, it is a violation for a retailer to ask a customer paying by credit card for their zip code in order to complete the transaction, or imply so under the Beverly-Song Act. Many retailers use your zip code to find your address and use it for mass, unsolicited mailings, which could compromise your personal information.
Philadelphia False Claims – Verizon Premium FiOS Top Boxes
Plaintiff Christopher Kelly filed a consumer class action lawsuit against Verizon Pennsylvania LLC. He alleges that Verizon falsely claimed to its customers that a premium FiOS cable television feature known as a “set-top box” is required in order to view content on all of its customers’ television sets. The claim deceived consumers into leasing multiple set-top boxes, each having a monthly fee, in order to access FiOS cable content. The suit further alleges that Verizon deceives customers further by not disclosing the availability of third-party equipment alternatives to their proprietary “set-top box.”
New York – Not All Natural Honey
The Sioux Honey Association Cooperative was stung with a consumer class action product liability suit alleging that its Sue Bee Honey brand is not all-natural. The label’s misleading language claims that the honey “contains no man-made additives of any kind.” Why is this misleading? Well, the honey contains the chemical glyphosate, a potent herbicide that last year was declared as a probable human carcinogen by the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, according to the complaint. Companies will be held accountable by consumers for all-natural claims and this class action suit is proof that consumers are gaining more knowledge about what is in the food they consume.
Illinois – Consumer Fraud Class Action Against Massage Envy
Kathy Haywood sued Massage Envy Franchising LLC in U.S.D.C. Southern District of Illinois for allegedly falsely offering one hour massages, but the actual massage time was only 50 minutes due to the other 10 minutes spent to being interviewed by the massage therapist, dressing and undressing and waiting for the massage therapist to appear in the massage room.
The suit seems like a bit of a stretch, but it may require Massage Envy to change the “one hour” massage to “50 minute massage,” and that would be a fair trend to see among service providers to consumers. Too often unknowing consumers are misled by similar experiences.
Illinois – Consumer False Claims Class Action for New Whey Liquid Protein
A class action consumer fraud lawsuit against New Whey Nutrition LLC was filed in Norther District of Illinois. Plaintiff Jonathan Lampros alleges that the label on New Whey Liquid Protein regarding the actual amount of protein, the percent daily value, and the sources of the protein content. The label also failed to follow federal and state regulations regarding the testing methodology of its protein content and daily value percentage.
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