Hmm, has Fumizer been Smokin’ Something? Consumers are fuming over false advertising claims made by a manufacturer of e-cigarettes—so much so they’ve filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit. Filed by a smoker, not surprising there, the lawsuit accused Fumizer of falsely claiming its vaporizers could help users quit smoking or lead to “healthy smoking” (healthy smoking?—that is an oxymoron—not to mention the visual is totally counter-intuitive).
The e-cigarette lawsuit alleges the company made these claims despite the existence of adverse medical studies. Ya think?
The lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Joseph Sheppard, alleges that the manual for the Fumizer e-cigarette claims it can “help you quit smoking,” which contradicts other marketing materials that disclaim that any use of the e-cigarette is an aid to quit smoking. According to the lawsuit, the disclaimers are made to avoid U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation.
“These representations are contradictory and hypocritical because [the packaging] asserts Fumizer e-cigarettes are ‘neither intended nor marked as a quit smoking aid,’” the complaint states.
Further, the complaint contends that Fumizer misled consumers by referring to healthy smoking, and ignoring studies which show e-cigarettes still contain some of the carcinogens and toxins in tobacco cigarettes, along with additional potentially harmful chemicals.
Sheppard also states in the complaint that vaporizers require users to inhale more deeply compared with traditional cigarettes, which could be harmful. Claims about healthy smoking make consumers feel there are no risks to using the devices, the suit claims.
“There is widespread agreement in the scientific community that further research is necessary before the full negative effects of electronic cigarette use on users’ health can be known and that until then, manufacturers, sellers and distributors of electronic cigarettes should not make any representations relating to the safety, health or benefits, if any, of electronic cigarettes,” the complaint states.
Additionally, the lawsuit notes that Fumizer fails to list the ingredients for its products, thereby preventing consumers from being able to make an informed decision regarding whether or not they want to risk inhaling specific chemicals.
“By omitting the ingredients, defendant hides the fact that Fumizer e-cigarettes contain propylene glycol, a product found to cause throat irritation and induce coughing, and thus no longer used by certain of Fumizer’s competitors,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also states that Fumizer’s claims its devices could be used anywhere, citing cities and counties in California that have banned e-cigarettes and public, along with statements that its vaporizers were top quality. However, the plaintiff’s Fumigo 650 Personal Vaporizer allegedly short-circuited, exploded and caused a fire in his home in March, according to the suit.
E-cigarettes that are good for you? Sounds like a Scamorama ding-dong to me.
OxyElite been Beat? And while we’re on the subject of too good to be true—GNC Holdings Inc, the maker of USPLabs OxyELITE Pro just agreed to settle a class action that alleged the diet supplement does everything but take the garbage out. Unfortunately, it seems that included associated liver damage, which got the diet supplement pulled from the market by the FDA last November.
The ensuing lawsuit alleged GNC sold the supplements, which contain dimethylamylamine, better known as DMAA, and aegeline, despite widespread reports that the products cause severe liver damage.
This week, GNC agreed to pony up $2 million to shut the suit down. The GNC settlement motion, filed in the Northern District of Florida, asked the court to sign off on the deal, which will provide reimbursements for consumers who bought USPlabs’ OxyElite Pro and Jack3d lines of products.
Heads up—the settlement class includes anyone who bought the USPlabs products between Aug. 17, 2012, and the date of final approval, according to the motion. Eligible class members will receive $35 per container of OxyELITE Pro purchased, $20 per container of Jack3d and $20 per container of VERSA-1.
The case is Velasquez et al. v. USPLabs LLC et al., case number 4:13-cv-00627, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Force-placed Insurance Scams made the news this week, with final approval granted for a $31 million settlement of seven proposed force-placed insurance class actions, all alleging Bank of America NA (BofA) illegally forced homeowners to buy excessive amounts of flood insurance. It’s a lottery where the bank always wins, it seems. But not in these cases.
Approved by a federal judge in Oregon, the settlement will see BofA pay $31 million into a settlement fund, with plaintiffs receiving $2,500 each as an incentive award. The approval order also calls for certification of a class for settlement purposes only.
The lawsuits were filed in 2011 alleging BofA sent letters to homeowners and other borrowers informing them that they carried insufficient flood insurance because they lived in special flood zones, where there was a high risk of flooding and associated hazards. However, there is no federal requirement for homeowners living in those areas to carry additional insurance, the lawsuits claimed. BofA allegedly ignored proof sent by the plaintiffs demonstrating that they med the allegedly unnecessary requirement.
Under the terms of the settlement, BofA will make a series of changes to its insurance practices, including not taking any commission from force-placed flood insurance for three years. The bank also agreed to cease giving out opt-out letters from the forced policies in some of its future mailings and to refund co-op borrowers for any force-placed insurance that was not required by their loans.
The case is Larry Arnett et al. v. Bank of America NA. et al., case number 3:11-cv-01372, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.
Ok – Folks –time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend –see you at the bar!
You’re in good hands with Allstate? Maybe not so much if you’re a claims adjuster. This week the Insurance giant got a surprise. It’s green lights a go-go for a long-standing unpaid overtime class action against, involving 800 Allstate employees in California who allege Allstate had a practice or unofficial policy of requiring its claim adjusters to work unpaid off the-the-clock overtime in violation of California labor law.
The Allstate lawsuit was brought by casualty adjuster Jack Jimenez in 2010, on behalf of any claims adjuster working for the insurer in the state of California since September 29, 2006. The complaint alleges that Allstate’s managers are required to stay within an annual budget that includes overtime compensation, and that the performance evaluations and bonuses paid to managers are dependent on how closely they conform to the budget. This would mean that a manager would have a disincentive to approve and report overtime, the class claims.
The class action alleges that Allstate sees repeated requests for overtime as a performance issue to be addressed with individual workers “including “suggestions” on how a claims adjuster can be better trained on efficiency and alternative methods of getting the work done that do not require overtime. Managers would often see workers performing off-the-clock work outside of their scheduled shifts but not inquire if overtime was requested, the workers say.
The plaintiffs contend Allstate’s allegedly illegal conduct has been widespread and consistent. The class action suit alleges that Allstate had not paid overtime to current and former California-based claims adjusters in violation of California Labor Code and had not paid adjusters for missed meal breaks and that Allstate had not timely paid wages upon termination in violation of the California Labor Code. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that Allstate engaged in unfair competition in violation of California Business and Professions Code.
FYI—the case is: Jack Jimenez v. Allstate Insurance Company – CV 10-8486 AHM (FFMx).
How much for that X-Ray? Two Florida women recently filed a class action lawsuit alleges JFK Medical Center and parent company HCA, Inc., are in violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act. Specifically the plaintiffs allege they and others like them were billed exorbitant and unreasonable fees for emergency radiological services covered in part by their Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.
Under Florida’s No Fault Car Insurance Law, drivers are required to have $10,000 in PIP insurance, which has a 20 percent out-of-pocket deductible. The complaint, filed in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Hillsborough County, charges JFK Medical Center, of Atlantis, Fla., and other Florida HCA facilities with billing PIP patients’ rates for radiological services that are 20 to 65 times higher than the rates charged for similar services to non-PIP patients.
The lawsuit was brought by Marisela Herrera and Luz Sanchez, both of whom were PIP-covered patients who were treated through JFK Medical Center’s emergency department after their automobile accidents in April 2013 and May 2013, respectively. Herrera and Sanchez each received a CT of the brain for $6,404, a CT scan of the spine for $5,900, and a thoracic spine X-ray for $2,222. Herrera also received a lumbar spine X-ray for $3,359.
According to the South Florida Medicare rate, a standard used for customary and reasonable medical service rates, the brain CT scan provided is $163.96; the cervical spine CT scan, $213.14; and the thoracic spine x-ray, with three views, $38.
The complaint charges that because of the exorbitant rates, both Herrera’s and Sanchez’s $10,000 PIP coverage were prematurely exhausted and both were billed thousands of dollars by JFK Medical Center for radiological services not paid for by their PIP insurers.
The complaint also charges breach of contract since both women entered into a “Condition of Admission” contract that provides that patients must pay their accounts at the rates stated in the hospital’s price list. Neither woman was provided a price list at the time of medical treatment.
Plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Boldt Law Firm, of Hollywood, FL, and Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., of Lake Worth, FL.
Ah—one ringy dingy—that will be $32 million thank you! That’s right folks—a $32 million settlement has been reached in a Telephone Consumer protection Act (TCPA) class action pending against Bank of America (BofA). The BofA lawsuit claims the bank and FIA Card Services, also a defendant, violated the TCPA when it used automatic telephone dialing systems and/or an artificial or prerecorded voice to contact individuals without obtaining prior express consent from those individuals.
The ruling certifies a class for settlement purposes including all individuals who received allegedly unauthorized automated phone calls from BofA regarding mortgage loan and credit card accounts between 2007 and 2013. The class also includes people who allegedly received unauthorized text messages to their cell phones, between 2009 and 2010. The class is thought to total roughly 7 million members.
The preliminary settlement, if approved, could be an amount the parties claim to be the largest ever obtained in a finalized TCPA settlement, according to an order filed Friday approving the deal.
In addition to the monetary portion of the settlement, Bank of America has improved its servicing systems such that they prevent the calling of a cellphone unless a loan servicing record is systematically coded to reflect the customer’s prior express consent to receive calls via their cell phone.
Ok Folks–time to adjourn for the week. Have a fab weekend—see you at the bar!
Is Snooki snookered? And maybe those of us using Zantrex? Christmas is not a good time to get the news that your diet pills may be snake oil. But, really, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Snooki, of “Jersey Shore” fame, is facing a federal consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations she promoted the diet pill Zantrex knowing that the pills don’t work. http://www.bigclassaction.com/lawsuit/snooki-zantrex-diet-pills-consumer-fraud-class.php
Basic Research LLC, Zoller Laboratories, three of their officers, and Nicole Polizzi aka Snooki are named as defendants by lead plaintiff Ashley Brady, who claims Zantrex combines caffeine with herbs that are “unsafe and ineffective for weight control or appetite suppression.” Brady further alleges that the three officers have been ordered to cease and desist selling fraudulent weight-loss products.
So re: the Snooki Zantrex lawsuit, here’s the skinny—(couldn’t resist that one) Brady alleges she bought a bottle of Zantrex-3 in 2010 after reading the label’s claims stating the drug would provide “546% More Weight Loss Than America’s #1 Selling Ephedra-Based Diet Pill,” and that it would make her lose weight “without diet and exercise.” (OK, what’s your first clue.)
According to the lawsuit, “Snooki represents … that Zantrex is safe and effective for weight loss and fat loss,” the lawsuit states. “These representations are false, misleading and deceptive because … Zantrex is neither effective nor safe for weight loss nor fat loss.” The complaint states that Snooki is the face of the Zantrex brand, promoting it on her websites, on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and in celebrity gossip magazines.
Basic Research bills itself as “one of the largest ‘nutraceutical’ companies in the United States, with annual sales revenues in excess of $50 million,” the lawsuit states. Further, all three officers have come under fire for similar fraudulent schemes in the past. Defendant Dennis W. Gay is a principal and director of both Basic Research and Zoller; the FTC enjoined him in a similar case weight-loss fraud in 2006, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, defendant Daniel B. Mowrey was also enjoined from this conduct by the FTC’s 2006 injunction, and defendant Mitchell K. Friedlander, with Basic Research received a cease-and-desist order from the US Postal Service in 1985, also involving allegedly fraudulent weight-loss products, and a second USPS order involving bogus breast enlargement products, according to the lawsuit.
What’s that expression—“it’s the company you keep.”
Ho Ho Ho Baby!
What is this? Instant Replay? Almost. Following on the heels of a huge settlement by Visa and Mastercard in an antitrust lawsuit brought by thousands of small businesses across the US, (see below), a consumer banking class action lawsuit has just been filed against four major banks alleging they conspired to fix “interchange fees,” attached to the use of those same banks’ credit cards.
Those additional fees have cost consumers billions, according to the allegations. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Not to sound cynical, but the list of defendants shouldn’t’ come as a surprise. They are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Capital One FSB and HSBC Bank USA NA. The allegations are that they conspired with credit card companies to arrange or ‘fix’ the swipe fees charged to customers when they use their credit cards. The credit care fee lawsuit contends this has cost cardholders (you and me)—are you ready for this—over $54 billion in illegal credit card and bank fees annually. That would fund a few retirement but not ours apparently. No surprise, the class action claims this “price fixing” is in violation of the Sherman Act and the California Business and Professions Code.
Filed by Melvin Salveson, Edward Lawrence, Dianna Lawrence and Wendy M. Adams, the potential class action seeks to represent a nationwide class of Visa and MasterCard holders.
The plaintiffs claim that they each purchased “thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services and paid related Interchange Fees on Visa and MasterCard transactions at prices inflated by the Defendants’ price-fixing conspiracy over many years.” Further, because of these fees, the plaintiffs contend, they have purchased products at artificially inflated prices. According to the lawsuit, “This price-fixing conspiracy is ongoing and additional overcharge dollars are being extracted from Cardholders pursuant to the conspiracy every time they swipe their Visa and MasterCard payment cards.”
And—yes—there’s more—all this collusion has also resulted in a loss of competition from other cards, in that merchants were prevented, allegedly, from telling their customers that there were cheaper options when making a purchase
Entitled Salveson, et al. v. JPMorgan Chase & Co., et al., Case No. 13-cv-05816, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit claims “In furtherance of the conspiracy, Defendants and their co-conspirators also agreed to and have collectively imposed restraints on competition, such as so-called ‘Exclusionary Rules,’ ‘No Discount Rules,’ ‘No Surcharge Rules,’ and ‘Honor All Cards Rules,’ as well as Anti-Steering and other restrictions imposed upon merchants to the detriment of Cardholders,” the lawsuit states. The effect of these rules is such that merchants are prevented or prohibited from informing customers about the true costs associated with different forms of payments and from offering consumers an option to use a credit card with lower fees.
Specifically, “Through their common control of both Visa and MasterCard, Defendants and their co-conspirators have stifled competition between Visa and MasterCard and have thwarted competition from smaller competitor networks such as American Express and Discover,” the class action lawsuit states. “This reduction in competition among general purpose payment card networks has resulted in higher Interchange Fees, hindered and delayed the development and implementation of improved network products and services, and has lessened consumer choice.”
So these allegations, if proved true, would go along way to explaining how Visa and Mastercard can afford to pony up $5.7 Billion to settle an antitrust class action…but not everyone is happy with this settlement…
Visa & MasterCard Pay Up… A settlement has been approved in a credit card fees class action lawsuit, by a United States federal judge. The settlement is for an estimated $5.7B, between Visa Inc (NYSE:V) and MasterCard Inc . The lawsuit was brought by thousands of retailers who alleged the credit card companies fixed fees that are charged to merchants every time their customers made use of their debit or credit cards. Additionally, the lawsuit claimed that Visa and Mastercard prevented merchants from informing customers about other forms of payments that were considerably cheaper.
The judge’s approval came amidst objections from literally thousands of retailers who were complaining that this amount was inadequate. It is believed that this settlement is the largest in any United States antitrust class action.
The class action was initially brought against Visa, then Mastercard in 2005, with both companies accused of fee fixing. A fairness hearing was held in September. The original settlement amount was $7.2B but was reduced to $5.7B after thousands of merchants dropped out of the settlement deal. The updated Visa and MasterCard settlement provides for cash payments to merchants across the country and also permits then to start charging customers and additional fee whenever a Master or a Visa card is used.
The National Retail Federation’s general counsel, Mallory Duncan said in a statement that his organization which had opposed this deal was now reviewing the ruling that they are expecting to file an appeal.
Ok Folks, That’s all for this week. Happy Holidays, be safe, and we’ll see you at the bar in time for a toast to 2014!
You gotta love Bank of America. On the heels of reports of debt collection harassment—and the recent Bank of America debt collection harassment class action lawsuit that was filed—BofA managed to not only inspire ire in its customers but also make a complete fool out of itself! How did it manage that, you ask? Read on…
In the age of social media-enhanced customer service (ie, have a problem with a company? Tweet it and await your response…), Bank of America is right up there with the best of them responding to customer mentions (#BofA, @BofA, etc…) of the big bank on Twitter. Well, as Gizmodo reported earlier in the week, sometimes too much monitoring for company mentions—along with what looked like either cookie-cutter automated responses or more likely complete incompetence—can make a customer service department look like a bunch of idiots. And, indeed, BofA’s customer service looked that way.
Here’s the low-down: A guy (Twitter handle=@darthmarkh) tweeted that he’d been creating some chalk art on the sidewalk out in front of a BofA location in NYC—and, might I add, he’d done a damn good job recreating the Monopoly game “go to jail” graphic (see pic above). Needless to say, the cops finally told him to stop and move along. He did, and he then tweeted about the incident with the mention of “@bankofamerica”—but his goal was to spread word of BofA’s alleged “illegal foreclosure fraud” rather than to have BofA take notice and ask if he’d like assistance.
Well, the clueless wonders over at BofA customer service reached out to @darthmarkh to find out if there was “anything they could do to help?” Seriously. (See the twitter conversation here). And, it went on to include gems like “We are here to help, listen, and learn from our customers and are glad to assist with any account related inquiries.”
And we’re so glad you are! Can you imagine the level of incompetence it takes to either respond—in person—like that, or to build an automated-response system that would generate such responses regardless of the nature of inquiry it was responding to? #EpicFail doesn’t even do this one justice.
The field day that @darthmarkh’s followers had after that was, as you can imagine, hilarious. And it should be mentioned that as of today, there hasn’t been an official response from BofA or acknowledgment of the screw-up—guess it’s better to stay mum and hope it all just creeps off everyone’s Twitter pages.
Sadly, doesn’t look like BofA has done much since the rallying cry for better customer service from CEO Brian Moynihan back in January of this year. Now, instead of looking like they’re listening to customers and ‘making it easier for customers to do business with the bank’, you have to wonder if anyone at all is actually listening—and, if they are, if they even have a brain.
The Girls Next Door are in trouble—well—one of them at any rate. Kendra Wilkinson, the former star of “The Girls Next Door” and “Kendra,” is facing a consumer fraud class action lawsuit over allegations she advertised a fat loss supplement that is ineffective and possibly dangerous to people’s health. The other named defendants are marketer Corr-Jensen Inc, and nutritional supplement retailer GNC Corp.
Adam Karhu filed the Kendra Wilkinson weight loss lawsuit, alleging the diet supplement “Ab Cuts” (Abdominal Cuts) fat loss supplement was advertised by Wilkinson as “a health supplement, not a diet pill,” which was false and misleading. Ok people, really? In what universe does the name Ab Cuts sound like a health supplement?
Entitled Karhu v. Corr-Jensen Labs Inc. et al., Case No. 13-cv-03583, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the lawsuit specifically claims that Wilkinson promotes Ab Cuts on her website and through Facebook and Twitter, in addition to appearing on almost all product promotions, including appearances on talk show appearances and in celebrity magazines. According to the lawsuit, Wilkinson makes paid appearances at GNC stores across the country, claiming that Ab Cuts is her “I-Cheat-Every-Day Diet.” Note to Kendra: careful what you say…this lawsuit may give new meaning to “cheat”…)
The Ab Cuts product line has 11 different dietary supplement products all made with the same active ingredient, conjugated linoleic acid (“CLA”). According to the product advertising, CLA promotes fat and weight loss. But—according to the lawsuit, the science just ain’t there. In fact, the complaint alleges that CLA may actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. That sounds healthy!
Putative members of the Kendra Wilkinson diet lawsuit include anyone in the US who bought Ab Cuts, excluding people who purchased the products for resale. The AbCuts lawsuit alleges breach of express warranty, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, unjust enrichment, violation of the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, and for violation of New York’s consumer protection laws.
Bank of America (BoFA) got nailed this week, with a debt collection harassment class action lawsuit alleging America’s biggest bank is in violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act. Add this to the list of possible legal digressions.
Filed by Broward County resident Marc Katz, the lawsuit, entitled, Marc Katz v. Bank of America NA, case number 0:13-cv-61372, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florid, alleges BoFA uses automated dialers to call the cell phones of people who have debt with the bank. That would certainly raise your blood pressure.
Specifically, Katz claims that in 2010 BoFA launched a mortgage foreclosure action against him in Florida state court. The bank then continued to call his cellphone using automated dialing systems in an effort to try and collect the purported debt. This occurred even after the bank was told to contact Katz’s attorney for anything related to the foreclosure action, according to the lawsuit.
“Despite receipt of a letter of representation, and its inherent cease communication directive, defendant’s continued collection efforts involved the placement of auto-dialed calls and/or recorded messages to the cellular telephones of allegedly delinquent consumers,” the debt collection harassment class action lawsuit states.
Further, Katz claims that when he answered the calls a machine-operated voice would advise him to “please hold for the next available representative,” forcing him to wait and listen to music or “dead air” before an actual person came on the line, the lawsuit states. “Defendant’s persistent and unlawful calling campaign was carried out with the intent to abuse and harass the plaintiff,” the lawsuit claims.
Heads up—the lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a putative class consisting of all individuals in Florida who were the subject of Bank of America’s debt collection activities related to their residential property in Florida and who were represented by counsel with respect to said debt and still received pre-recorded or auto-dialed calls on their cellphones from the bank over the past four years.
Did you buy dodgy gas from BP? If so, you may be in line for some cash. The petrochemical giant (BP Products North America Inc), reached a $7 million defective product settlement concerning allegations it sold contaminated gasoline. Contaminated gasoline? Don’t get me started.
According to a statement issued on the settlement, the BP contaminated gas lawsuit was filed after BP recalled approximately 4.7 million gallons of contaminated gasoline, which it distributed from its Whiting, Indiana, refinery to more than 575 retail outlets in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Various problems, ranging from engine issues to damaged fuel systems, resulted from the use of the contaminated gasoline, affecting thousands of customers. According to the statement, people who are eligible for a portion of the settlement will be notified in the near future…
Ok folks, Happy July 4 Weekend! See you at the bar!