It’s time once again to put together a collection of the latest class action lawsuit news. Our latest installment features some Equifax developments, a hullaballoo over L.L. Bean’s former return policy, and other items consumers should know about.
On Equifax (again):
First off, Equifax revealed in confidential documents submitted to the Senate Banking Committee that more personal information than previously thought may have been released during its 2017 data breach. CNN Money’s Donna Borak and Kathyrn Vasel write that such additional stolen information could include tax ID numbers and driver’s license states of issue and issue dates. In its original disclosure of the incident, Equifax noted compromised items included names, dates of birth, addresses and Social Security numbers, and that only some driver’s license numbers were stolen, minus the state and issue date. Equifax reportedly informed Congressional investigators that its initial list of compromised information was “not exhaustive.”
Secondly, if you’ve been holding your breath waiting for some sort of hammer to fall on Equifax, you may want to take a break for the foreseeable future. Reuters reporter Patrick Rucker posted on February 5 that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has effectively pulled out of former director Richard Cordray’s commitment to investigating how Equifax failed to safeguard the sensitive information of 145 million Americans. The about face, Rucker writes, comes from the CFPB’s new chief, Mick Mulvaney, who stepped into the role after Cordray resigned last November. Citing three unnamed sources, Reuters says Mulvaney “has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps when launching a full-scale probe.” The CFPB has denied it’s dropped the Equifax investigation, but provided no further clarification, while the Federal Trade Commission’s data breach probe trudges on.
Finally, despite how troubling the above items may seem, there has been some movement on the class action lawsuit front. United States District Judge Thomas Thrash this week named 26 attorneys as lead counsel in the multidistrict litigation in which all proposed federal class action lawsuits over the Equifax data breach are being handled. Hey, a step forward is a step forward, isn’t it?
Whew. Now that our Equifax business has concluded (for now), here’s the rest of what you need to know…
L.L. Bean Quickly Tagged with Class Action Suit After Changing Lifetime Return Policy
All good things eventually come to an end. For some retailers, however, that “end” could land them in court.
Almost immediately after announcing it changed its trademark lifetime return policy, L.L. Bean found itself as the defendant in an Illinois consumer’s proposed class action lawsuit challenging the retailer’s new one-year limit on returns. Evidently, one consumer simply was not satisfied with L.L. Bean’s concession that products purchased prior to February 9, 2018 would not be subject to the new policy, which was put in place by the 108-year-old retailer in response to a supposed uptick in abuse of its lifetime-return privilege.
“Customers were sending in decades-old gear and clothing pulled from junkyard or thrift stores and expecting the company to replace them,” reporter Ally Marotti wrote for the Chicago Tribune.
The proposed class action charges that L.L. Bean has been deceptive and unfair toward loyal consumers and violated the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act and other consumer protection statutes.
According to a spokesperson, L.L. Bean has lost $250 million within the last five years due to “destroy quality” returns.
Ulta Beauty Staring Down Claims That It Re-Sold Returned Products as New
Ulta Beauty allegedly repacked returned cosmetic products and re-sold them to consumers, including some items that may have been less than sanitary, a new proposed class action lawsuit alleges. NJ.com’s Jeff Goldman brings us a report that Ulta employees were given a quota for the number of returned products that could be thrown away, and once that quota was reached, the lawsuit alleges, the items were repackaged and put back on store shelves. According to the complaint—which cites an early-January Twitter thread from an ex-employee who blew the whistle on Ulta’s reportedly shady return practices—the most often returned items that found their way back onto shelves were shampoo, lotion, foundation and mascara.
“Another former Ulta employee, who worked at a store in Rock Hill, South Carolina,” the complaint reads, “told Business Insider that ‘[i]f there was 80% or more left in the bottle’ of used hair and skin-care products, Ulta employees would put the bottle back on the shelf.”
Ulta, which operates more than 1,000 stores nationwide, has denied the suit’s allegations, stating company policy “does not allow the resale of used products.”
Troubles Continue to Mount for Vice Media with Gender-Pay Discrimination Class Action
Vice Media is the defendant in a proposed class action filed in Los Angeles in which the plaintiff, a former channel and project manager, claims the embattled outlet marginalizes and systematically discriminates against women by paying them far less than male employees for comparable work. New York Times reporter Emily Steel writes that the lawsuit, which could cover a class of more than 700 employees, was filed almost two months after an investigation from the Times uncovered a culture of sexual misconduct and defamation toward women at the company, a “boy’s club” environment Vice’s own founders admitted “fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company.” Although Vice Media’s leadership issued a statement affirming their commitment to creating “a safe and inclusive workplace” in the wake of the Times’ report, the proposed class action takes Vice’s founders statements as proof that the company knew full well of its transgressions with regard to “inequitable pay, promotion, job assignments, and other practices.”
“They made this grandiose statement about how they are going to fix stuff,” one of the lead plaintiff’s attorneys said. “Now, they have the chance to do something about it.”
The plaintiff, Steel writes, worked at Vice from 2014 through 2016, during which time she reportedly made “far less” than her male counterparts, something the woman learned after receiving a copy of an internal memo listing the salaries of 35 other employees. The lawsuit seeks back wages for female Vice employees, as well as liquidated damages and injunctive relief aimed to put Vice in check.
Pixel Users’ Class Action Claims Google Knowingly Sold Phones with Defective Microphones
FastCompany.com’s Jared Newman reported back on February 7 that Google has been hit with a proposed class action case in which the plaintiffs claim the microphones and speakers in their first-generation Pixel and Pixel XL phones are “prone to malfunctioning and failing.” Google intentionally sold phones with faulty microphones, the complaint says, and, according to one lead plaintiff, would not issue a refund or replacement for her phone despite support staff’s acknowledgment that the device was defective.
“Moreover, instead of fixing the defective Pixel phones, providing refunds, or replacing the devices with non-defective phones, Google has replaced defective phones with other defective phones, resulting in many consumers repeatedly experiencing the same microphone defect,” the 29-page lawsuit reads.
Newman points out that the next generation of Google smartphones—the Pixel 2 and XL2—is also susceptible to hardware concerns. The same firm behind the proposed class action detailed above is reportedly considering filing another suit over supposed display-based issues in the later-generation devices.
Sept. 2017 Class Action Claiming Royal Caribbean ‘Strong-Armed’ Cruise Passengers During Hurricane Harvey Dismissed
In September 2017, ClassAction.org covered a lawsuit filed by a Canadian woman who slammed Royal Caribbean Cruises for failing to cancel or offer refunds for an August 27-September 3 cruise despite Texas being subject to a state of emergency due to Hurricane Harvey. Florida Record writer Angela Underwood now reports that the lawsuit has been dismissed without prejudice.
Counsel for Royal Caribbean argued to U.S. District Court Judge James Lawrence King that the plaintiff failed to allege she sustained any injuries herself, not to mention “how she was injured, or that she even traveled to the Houston area herself like the class of people she hopes to represent.” This is ultimately what sunk the plaintiff’s entire case, with Judge King stating:
“Fatal to [the plaintiff’s] negligence claims is her failure to allege she herself suffered injury or damages. While she recites a laundry list of harms allegedly suffered by the class she hopes to represent, she fails to allege any specific harms that befell her as a result of [the defendant’s] various alleged failures and negligent acts.”
Arbitrated “Bootloop” Lawsuit Yields Minimal Results for LG Smartphone Owners
Remember that “bootloop” class action filed against LG in which the plaintiffs claimed some of the company’s smartphones suffered from a defect that rendered the devices more or less inoperable? Ars Technica writer Cyrus Farivar brings us a report saying that the case, after being sent to arbitration and hidden from public view, is now settled. Unfortunately, most people with the affected phones will get little from it.
LG has agreed to extend the warranty for the phones to 30 months out from the date of purchase; however, according to the website of the firm handling the case, there is no class action settlement. The only people eligible for any monetary payout – which is either $425 in cash or a $700 rebate toward a new phone – are those who were retained by the law firm handling the matter, as the case was resolved through arbitration and never certified as a class action.