Can you believe it’s been more than a month since our last roundup? Think of all the holiday-themed (and leftover) baked goods that have been consumed since then! Truth be told, so many class and collective actions have come across our desks in the last few months that we’ve been spending a lot of time keeping our Newswire stocked with the latest cases.
New year, new stories from everybody’s favorite corner of the Internet: the realm of class action litigation. Time to make the donuts.
Inspired by Equifax Catastrophe, Top Democrats Introduce Bill to Police—and Fine—Credit Reporting Companies That Suffer Cyber Attacks
Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mark Werner this week introduced a bill titled the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act that would effectively arm the United States government with stronger powers to punish credit reporting firms like Equifax with hefty fines should they experience a major cyber attack. In its coverage of the proposed legislation, Gizmodo writes the bill would form a new cybersecurity office under the oversight of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will be given the authority to fine credit reporting companies—are you sitting down?—up to $100 for each consumer affected by the hack. (The fine, though, would be capped at “50 percent of the company’s gross revenue for the previous fiscal year.”) Gizmodo points out that, for example, had this law been in place for last September’s disastrous Equifax data breach, the company would’ve been on the hook for $14 billion in fines.
You may be asking yourself, though: what about instances in which a company does not report a cyber security incident? In those cases, the cap for fines jumps up to 75 percent of the company’s gross revenue from the previous year. Hoo-boy.
And where do consumers fit into all this? Recode writes Sen. Warren and Werner’s bill would ensure half of the money paid to the government would later be returned to those affected by a cyber breach.
Gizmodo’s Dell Cameron and Recode’s Tony Romm have more on this story, including details on what specific type of stolen data the proposed bill would cover and the authority the bill would grant to the FTC to poke around credit reporting groups’ security measures.
States Will Fight the FCC’s Repeal of Net Neutrality
A day after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back 2015’s Obama-era Open Internet Order to repeal Net Neutrality, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on December 15 became the first in his position to announce his office will challenge the FCC’s removal of the crucial consumer protection. Schneiderman told TechCrunch that in the days after the repeal, he would head a multi-state lawsuit aimed at preserving protections for all Americas while working to “stop the FCC’s leadership from doing any further damage to the Internet and to our economy.”
Cut to 2018, when, the New York Times writes, lawmakers across at least six states have introduced legislation that would prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from putting up roadblocks for or throttling websites. With only a few weeks to go before the FCC’s draconian policy takes effect, the Times says California, New York, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Rhode Island and Washington—with North Carolina and Illinois reportedly weighing similar measures—have taken a head-on stance toward challenging Congress’ apparent contempt for consumer freedoms, recognizing their responsibility to protect residents and businesses who are effectively being pushed around by Washington.
“We won’t let the Trump-led FCC dismantle our right to a free and open Internet,” Democratic Senator Scott Wiener said in a statement published by CNN. “We won’t let them create a system where Internet providers can favor websites and services based on who pays more money.”
Apple Has a Lot of Explaining to Do…
By our count, Apple now faces more than 30 proposed class actions—not including those submitted in other countries—filed nationwide after the $900 billion company admitted to intentionally slowing down older iPhone models for the sake of providing “the best experience for customers.” After that blow came the Intel microprocessor chip fiasco, for which Apple has again found itself as the defendant in a class action, with the complaint seeking to find out what the company knew about the “Meltdown” and “Spectre” security vulnerabilities that affect the vast majority of iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs – and when they knew about it. As of this week, Reuters reports, the Senate may be next in line to take a pound of flesh from Apple.
Republican Senator John Thune, chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter on January 9 to Apple CEO Tim Cook over “the large volume of consumer criticism” aimed at the company following its admission and apology, noting that “there should have been better transparency.” In the letter, Reuters continues, Senator Thune also asked, among other inquiries, whether Apple mulled over making battery replacements free, rather than charge a discounted $29, and if it looked into customer rebates for those who already paid full price for battery replacements.
Reuters reporter David Shepardson writes Senator Thune said he wants answers from Apple by January 23.
Judge Rules in Favor of Starbucks in Underfilled Latte Class Action
A federal judge in California last week ruled Starbucks does not underfill its lattes, deciding in favor of the Seattle company in a class action that charged customers were being shorted on their with-foam requests. Newsweek, citing a Law360 report, writes U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled the lawsuit’s claim that consumers were being misled simply wasn’t strong enough.
“No reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing that lattes which are made up of espresso, steamed milk, and milk foam contain the promised beverage volume excluding milk foam,” Judge Gonzalez Rogers wrote.
Despite the plaintiffs’ stance that foam does not count toward the volume of a latte, the court’s decision stems in part from its definition of the official recipe of the beverage: espresso, milk product, and foam.
Newsweek’s Grace Guarnieri has more.
Labor Union’s Class Action Charges Social Media Job Ads Are Discriminatory Toward Older Applicants
After the publication on December 20 of a collaborative investigation between Pro Publica and the New York Times concerning how companies use social media to target their job opening ads to certain age brackets, a few other tech heavyweights now find themselves as defendants in a workers’ union’s proposed class action alleging the companies discriminate against older job hunters. The Hill, citing Reuters, reports the Communications Workers of America (CWA) alleges Amazon, T-Mobile and Cox Communications acted unlawfully in setting age parameters on advertisements recruiting for jobs. Facebook, which is not a defendant in CWA’s lawsuit, is mentioned in the complaint as also using such age limits in its social media job postings.
“This pattern or practice of discrimination denies job opportunities to individuals who are searching for and interested in jobs, reduces the number of older workers who apply for jobs with the offending employers and employment agencies, and depresses the number of older workers who are hired,” The Hill quotes from the lawsuit.
Ford Facing Allegations It Cheated Diesel Emissions Testing
Bloomberg this week brings us a report that Ford has been dragged into the ongoing legal tussle between automakers and consumers who allege the companies rigged diesel trucks to cheat emissions tests. The complaint alleges Ford’s F-250 and F-350 Super Duty diesel pickup trucks, touted by the American car maker as “the cleanest super diesel ever,” emit nitrogen oxide pollutants at as much as 50 times what’s allowable by law.
German auto parts supplier Robert Bosch GmbH joins Ford as a co-defendant in the proposed class action, which alleges the companies worked together to “mask” the trucks’ emissions to maintain overall performance.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of similar complaints filed against Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler can be found here and here.
Southwest Airlines Settles Collusion Class Action for $15 Million
Aviation industry publication FlightGlobal writes Southwest Airlines will fork over $15 million to put to rest a class action that claimed the Big Four U.S. air carriers–Southwest, American Airlines, Delta and United—conspired to fix prices by colluding on capacity plans. Though Southwest chose to settle, FlightGlobal notes American Airlines and United plan on fighting the collusion allegations. Southwest’s settlement is still subject to approval by a judge.
Vitamix Blender Owners Can Claim $70 Gift Card as Part of Class Action Settlement
If you own a Vitamix blender, you may be able to claim a $70 gift card from the company thanks to a recent class action settlement. The proposed deal, which is scheduled to be up for final approval on March 27 in Ohio, ConsumerReports.org writes, comes after a lawsuit alleged about six million Vita-Mix Corp. blenders manufactured between January 1, 2007 and October 1, 2016 often left small pieces of black nonstick coating in food and drinks.
Owners of the affected blenders should be notified sometime this month via email or regular mail. If you own a Vitamix blender and didn’t get a notice, don’t worry. The official settlement website can be accessed here.
ConsumerReports.org’s Kimberly Janeway has everything you need to know over at the publication’s website.
Denver’s Pepsi Center to Add Video Board Closed Captioning Thanks to ADA Class Action Settlement
As part of a preliminary class action settlement, the Pepsi Center in Denver, home to the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets, will provide closed captioning for the arena’s video boards. First reported by the Denver Post, the settlement ends a proposed class action filed in federal court in November 2016 in which the plaintiff alleged the owners of the Pepsi Center, Kroenke Arena Company, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Denver Post writer Danika Worthington explains of the settlement:
“This means deaf and hard of hearing people—and everyone else—will be able to read things such as player introductions and which players are sent to the penalty box as the words are broadcast over the public address system.”
The Post says that shortly after the case was filed, the Pepsi Center made closed captioning available via handheld devices, which the plaintiff’s lawyer said got in the way of truly enjoying the game experience.