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April 14, 2014 / Nic Underhill

GM Recalls Recalled Cars for New Defect

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General Motors (“GM”) has issued a new recall to replace another part of the ignition mechanism in small cars that had already been recalled for faulty ignition switches.

 The new recall is for 2003 to 2011 car models, including the Saturn Ion, Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac Solstice, Pontiac G5, Saturn Sky, and Chevrolet HHR. The recall is to replace the lock cylinder. The lock cylinder is where the key is inserted to the vehicle’s ignition. The current lock cylinders allow the key to be pulled out while the car is running.

GM says that the lock cylinder problem could lead to “a possible roll-away, crash and occupant or pedestrian injuries.” GM further states that it is “aware of several hundred complaints of keys coming out of ignitions.” It said that searches of GM and government databases found one roll-away in a parking lot that resulted in a crash and one injury claim.

GM dealers are now receiving the new ignition switches for the recall fix. Dealers will now replace the ignition lock cylinders and if necessary, reprogram new keys.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this recall or has been injured by any other defective products, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.

April 8, 2014 / Nic Underhill

T-Mobile Settles Robocall Class Action Suit

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T-Mobile USA Inc. has agreed to settle a putative consumer class action in the amount of $5 million. The suit alleges that T-Mobile used autodialing technology to call non T-Mobile customers on their cellular telephones for telemarketing purposes without first obtaining the customer’s consent.

The suit alleges that T-Moblie violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) by using a “robo-dialer” to make mass-marketing calls to non-T-Mobile customers without their consent. A robo-dialer, or autodialer, is a type of telephone technology designed to call large numbers of people and play pre-recorded messages. Robo-dialers allow companies to make large-scale telemarketing calls at a very low cost.

 However, this practice is illegal under most circumstances pursuant to the TCPA. Passed in 1991, the TCPA restricts telephone solicitations and the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and fax machines. The TCPA allows for a private right of action to consumers whose rights are violated under the law, as a means to deter violations.

 The 106,157 class members will each receive up to $90 if they submit a claim. Class members include any non-T-Mobile customer who received a cellphone call from T-Mobile using an automated system between September 4, 2008 and September 4, 2012. Class members had not given T-Mobile express consent prior to T-Mobile’s contact with them.               

If you or someone you know has being similarly harassed of or has been the victim of any other unfair business practices, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.

April 7, 2014 / Steven Soliman

Hotel Fees at the Center of Recent Class Action Investigation

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A recent  investigation has been launched to explore the possibility of a class action lawsuit against hotel chains who engage in deceitful practices regarding hotel fees.

Specifically, there have been numerous complaints over the years that some hotels, like the Marriot and Hilton, have engaged in a practice of additional fees labeled “hotel fees” or “resort fees,” with terms varying among  hotels. However, many customers have complained that they are not alerted of the fees until check-in, even when the customer reserved the room online. In more egregious cases, the customers were not made aware of the extra charges until the time of check-out.

  In response to these deceptive and wide-spread practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to several different hotel chains cautioning them that not mentioning the fees may be considered a violation of advertising laws.

 Now consumers are attempting to take action, evidenced by the recent class action investigation. If you have been the victim of a mandatory resort fee, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.

March 26, 2014 / Soheil Bahari

Redbox and Other Media Companies Required to Provide Closed Captioning on Their Products

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Redbox is the target of a new class action which among other things alleges that the movie rental company has violated the American Disabilities Act by not providing closed captioning on all of its physical and digital movies.

 The Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies and organizations in the media industry to provide their viewers with the possibility of closed captioning in their programs. Millions of Americans struggle with hearing problems and are categorized as either deaf or hard of hearing and rely on the closed captions when they watch movies or TV programs.

The main purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to ensure that there are accommodations available to those who are disabled. The law promulgated under the act in 1990 addresses employment, public accommodations, government services, and telecommunications among other things to make sure that disabled individuals are not discriminated against.

The law requires companies that deliver audiovisual products to customers ensure that the products are made accessible to those with hearing difficulties. This is primarily done by providing closed captioning. The law also mandates that all broadcasters, cable companies, and satellite program providers adhere to the same requirements asthose companies that deliver the audiovisual products.

In 2010, Congress passed the 21st century Communications and Video Accessibility Act which further expands this requirement to companies that provide streaming services through the internet. This has proven especially troublesome for companies like Netflix and Redbox which, along with their physical DVD distributing services, offer streaming capabilities to their subscribers. It has been even more difficult for companies that are solely dealing with streaming contents such as Hulu, M-Go, and Vudu, to name a few.

Francis Jancik, a California man with hearing problems, is seeking injunctive relief by filing a class action lawsuit against Redbox. In his lawsuit, Mr. Jancik is alleging that the company is not only violating the law by providing content that does not contain closed captions, but also falsely advertising that it does.

If you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of a disability, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation concerning your legal rights and remedies.

March 18, 2014 / Nic Underhill

Student Loan Collection Company Sued for Unfair Practices

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A putative class action lawsuit was recently filed against the National Collegiate Student Loan Trust (“National”), a student loan collection company, and the Law Offices of Patenaude & Felix APC. The complaint was filed in federal court in California and alleges that National and Patenaude used deceptive practices to collect student loan debts.

                The suit was filed by Dawn Zoerb, who seeks relief under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“RFDCPA”), a California debt collection statute. Zoerb is filing the suit on behalf of all persons in California who had a collection lawsuit filed against them to recover a consumer debt where the lawsuit failed to identify the original creditor.

                The FDCPA was created to eliminate abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts, to promote fair debt collection, and to provide consumers with an avenue for disputing and obtaining validation of debt information in order to ensure the information’s accuracy. The Act creates guidelines under which debt collectors may conduct business, defines rights of consumers involved with debt collectors, and prescribes penalties and remedies for violations of the Act. Generally, the FDCPA applies only to third party debt collectors.

                Similar to the FDCPA, the RFDCPA was created, by the California legislature, to assist debtors in protecting debtor’s rights against unscrupulous and harassing debt collectors. However, the RFDCPA is broader in scope and protects debtors from harassment from both third party debt collectors and the original creditors. The reason for this additional protection is because original creditors are generally the most aggressive collectors because the FDCPA does not apply to them in other states.

According to the complaint, after Zoerb had fallen behind on his student loan payments, his debt was transferred to National and then to Patenaude for collection. Zoerb alleges that Patenaude filed a state collections lawsuit against him, on behalf of National, for collection of the student loan debt in California debt court. Zoerb further claims that Patenaude incorrectly failed to identify the original creditor in the lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that the defendants unlawfully and abusively attempted to collect a debt owed by Zoerb and that this conduct caused him damages amounting to $1000, along with attorney fees and litigation costs.

If you or someone you know has being similarly taken advantage of or has been the victim of any other unfair business practices, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.

March 11, 2014 / Scott Tillett

Is “Vaping” Safe? Consumer Files Class Action Against e-Cigarette Manufacturers

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On February 11, 2014, California resident Eric McGovern filed a class action lawsuit (Orange County Superior Court, case no.: 30-2014-00705711-CU-FR-CXC) against electronic cigarette makers Njoy, Inc. and Soterra, Inc. McGovern claims that he experienced several adverse symptoms including nausea, dizziness, and persistent pain in his chest after using the Njoy products despite assurances from the manufacturers that they are safe alternatives to traditional combustible cigarettes.

E-Cigarettes, also referred to as “vapes,” for the water vapor released as aerosol from the heating of liquid contained in the e-cigarette, are popular substitutes for those looking for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. McGovern claims that the manufacturers of e-cigarettes “spend millions of dollars each year making unsubstantiated claims about their products.” According to the complaint, Njoy represents that its products contain no harmful ingredients and that the glycerin, propylene glycol, and other substances found in their products have been determined by the FDA to be “safe for use in food products.”

In July 2009, the FDA issued a report announcing that “a laboratory analysis of electronic cigarette samples has found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze.” In a more recent report published by BioMed Central on January 9, 2014, researchers suggested monitoring “levels and effects of prolonged exposure to propylene glycol and glycerin that comprise the bulk of emissions from electronic cigarettes other than nicotine and water vapor…” Despite the FDA’s plans to issue a proposed rule extending its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, the only e-cigarettes currently regulated by the FDA are those which are “marketed for therapeutic purposes.”

McGovern has alleged the defendants fail to disclose and actively conceal the fact that their products contain harmful toxins and varying levels of nicotine in violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law. The complaint also alleges causes of action for false advertising, consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, and conversion for which McGovern seeks actual, compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages on behalf of consumers who have purchased Njoy e-cigarettes.

If you or someone you know has purchased products based upon false representations or have otherwise been the victim of consumer fraud, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

February 27, 2014 / Scott Tillett

Consumer Class Action Alleges Amazon Charged Prime Members for “Free” Shipping

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Dr. A. Cemal Ekin, filed a class action lawsuit in Washington federal court against internet retail giant, Amazon Services, LLC, on February 19, 2014 for allegedly advising vendors to increase item prices to offset “free” shipping offered to Amazon Prime members.

According to the complaint, Amazon sold Prime memberships to consumers for $79 per year, which entitled them to free shipping on Prime-Eligible items. As alleged in the complaint, prior to February 22, 2011, free shipping was the only benefit to consumers who purchased Prime memberships. Amazon allegedly encourages third-party vendors utilizing Amazon’s “Fulfillment by Amazon” (“FBA”) service, in which Amazon warehouses, sells, ships, handles returns, and provides payment and collection services for third-party-owned goods sold on Amazon.com, to list items for sale as Prime-Eligible. Vendors utilizing the FBA service are charged a fee by Amazon in exchange for having their items show up first in the list of customer search results.

Ekin alleges that “Amazon advised FBA Vendors to include the amount they would have charged for shipping in their item prices in order to maximize total revenue and profit margins.” Ekin argues that Amazon’s practices are not only a breach of contract, but violate Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) guidelines. The lawsuit cites to the FTC’s definition of “free,” which explains that “a purchaser has a right to believe that the merchant will not directly and immediately recover, in whole or in part, the cost of the free merchandise or service by marking up the price of the article which must be purchased.”

Ekin has alleged causes of action for breach of contract and violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. He seeks compensatory damages, treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and interest on behalf of all US residents who became Amazon Prime members between October 24, 2007 and February 22, 2011, and paid one or more $79 annual Prime membership fees during that period.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of consumer fraud or breach of contract, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

February 25, 2014 / Corina Valderrama

Settlement in Class Action Over Mass Text Messages

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Two Florida based companies reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit over alleged violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (“TCPA”). Palm Beach Mall Holdings LLC and Upscale Events by Mosaic LLC have agreed to pay $6.5 million to avoid litigation.

The TCPA was created to protect consumers from harassing conduct by telemarketers and was intended to limit the ability of telemarketers and other companies from contacting consumers unsolicited. New technologies such as “robodialers” and mass text messaging made it easier for companies to contact large numbers of consumers. Under the TCPA, companies may not send out mass-messages using an autodialer unsolicited.

According to the lawsuit, the two companies contacted consumers to alert them of an upcoming job fair in the air. The companies allegedly obtained thousands of consumers’ cellular phone numbers from public voting records in order to make the mass messages.

If you or anyone you know has been of a victim of unsolicited, corporate mass messaging, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.

February 24, 2014 / Brian Bush

Chevy and Pontiac Compact Vehicles Recalled After 6 Deaths

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General Motors, the maker of Chevrolet and Pontiac vehicles, has issued a recall of 778,562 of its 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt compact vehicles and 2007 Pontiac B5 compacts, according to reports. At least 22 accidents, and 6 deaths, have been attributed to faulty ignition switches in the Cobalt and G5, which have been shown to turn off suddenly if the ignition is jolted while driving.

In some cases, the ignition switch defect has prevented deployment of the airbags in the affected vehicles during front-end collisions. According to a report, GM acknowledged that these ignition switches may not have met specifications, and has issued the voluntary recall to address safety concerns. Owners of 2005-2007 Chevy Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5s who have yet to be contacted about the recall are warned not to use heavily loaded key-chains, as the extra weight may cause the ignition switch to shut off without warning. (See, report.)

In certain circumstances, a manufacturer, such as GM, can be strictly liable for manufacturing and selling a product with a defect in design that causes injury to the consumer (See, McCabe v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc. (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1111, 1120; Barker v. Lull Engineering Co. (1978) 20 Cal. 3d 413, 428. Strict liability means that the manufacturer can be liable to pay a consumer damages, even if they didn’t intend injury, or act negligently, in manufacturing their product.

If you or someone you know has been injured due to a defect in product design, whether or not it relates to an auto accident, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation concerning your legal rights and remedies.

February 18, 2014 / Scott Tillett

Class Action Filed Against Redbox for Failure to Provide Closed-Captioning for the Hearing Impaired

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A California man, Francis Jancik, has filed a class action lawsuit against the movie rental company, Redbox, for failing to provide content with closed captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Mr. Jancik is a deaf customer who claims that Redbox has failed to provide equal access to DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming video content and services by refusing to provide closed captioned text.

According to Top Class Actions, the lawsuit alleges that Redbox misrepresents its content and services as “accessible” to customers with impaired hearing in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with physical or mental disabilities in employment, public services, and places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters. Jancik also claims that Redbox falsely advertises its content and services as closed captioned and/or containing English subtitles despite knowing that it’s DVD and online streaming video content do not have these features.

Jancik filed the class action lawsuit in California federal court in Santa Ana (Central District Case No. 13-cv-01387) for Redbox’s alleged violations of the ADA, as well as California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Competition Law. He seeks an injunction, preventing Redbox from falsely advertising that its content contains English subtitles and damages for violations of state and federal disability and consumer protection laws.

If you or someone you know has been denied disability accommodations or has purchased a product based upon false advertising, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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