That image comes from an email sent out to consumers affected by a PayPal class action settlement. For some reason, the default color and underlining were removed from the link to submit a claim.
It didn’t happen by accident. It’s obvious from the code that someone deliberately set the link’s color to black (
color:#000000) and the text-decoration to none (
text-decoration:none), which removes the underlining.
But it probably wasn’t an attempt to deceive. The settlement administrator, Epic Systems, Inc., was just following the email template precisely. Here is the email template included in the settlement agreement:
Mandatory binding arbitration sucks, but most of us have agreed to it in numerous consumer contracts, especially with banks, credit card companies, payday lenders, etc. What mandatory binding arbitration means is that if you try to sue your credit card company for, say, reordering transactions to maximize overdraft fees, the company can pull you out of court and force you into private arbitration with no option to certify a class action.
Under the terms of the settlement reached in several class actions against Midland Funding for its (apparently past) practice of employing robo-signers to execute affidavits for debt buyer lawsuits, each class member would receive under $20 — and that’s it. The Sixth Circuit rightly decided this was unfair (pdf).
Unfortunately, the Sixth Circuit seemed to think the settlement was unfair primarily because the named plaintiffs (i.e., those whose names actually appeared on the complaints) would receive $8,000 plus the elimination of their debts. The class members who opted into the settlement just got $17.38 each, and still owed their debts:
PayPal is the latest to join a growing list of companies (including eBay) who want to keep consumers out of courts and class actions. You can opt out of mandatory binding arbitration, at least, but you’ll be stuck with the class action ban either way. Opting out is not easy. Here’s what you have to do:
You can choose to reject this Agreement to Arbitrate (“opt out”) by mailing us a written opt-out notice (“Opt-Out Notice”). For new PayPal users, the Opt-Out Notice must be postmarked no later than 30 Days after the date you accept the User Agreement for the first time. If you are already a current PayPal user and previously accepted the User Agreement prior to the introduction of this Agreement to Arbitrate, the Opt-Out Notice must be postmarked no later than December 1, 2012. You must mail the Opt-Out Notice to PayPal, Inc., Attn: Litigation Department, 2211 North First Street, San Jose, CA 95131.
When “fashionista lawyer” Carolyn Kellman returned shorts she bought from Forever 21 for $14.46, she received just $14.45. And sued. As Scott Greenfield observes, although this looks at first blush like much ado about nothing, it is actually a perfect example of what a class action lawsuit is for: small damages spread out across a huge swath of consumers.
(It’s also possible that Kellman was the only person ever shortchanged, but as the article in the Daily Business Review points out, rounding receipts to make it easier to make change is done at other retailers, like Chipotle.)
All Kellman and her lawyers have to do now is find another 749,999 customers who were shortchanged, in order to make it past the Miami-Date threshold of $15,000.
Tomorrow, the Minnesota House of Representatives will consider two “tort reform” bills that would eviscerate Minnesota’s consumer protection statutes and set up road blocks to discourage class actions. The first bill is former Senator Linda Scheid’s stupid, anti-consumer bill, sponsored in the House by representatives Pat Mazorol (R), Denise Dittrich (D), Bev Scalze (D), Keith Downey (R), and Sandra Peterson (D). The bill will effectively remove attorney fees from consumer protection statutes—i.e., the main reason why consumer lawyers are able to take such cases in the first place.
The second grants defendants an interlocutory appeal from any class certification decision. This would add approximately two years to every class action, giving defendants a powerful new way to delay the proceedings and lose more paperwork.
If you are in Minnesota, please call your representative and ask him or her to oppose these bills.
Class action lawsuits are an extremely important tool, but the case of Seraji v. Capital Management Services is an example of a class action handled very badly. Capital Management Services is a debt collection agency that, according to the complaint, left—potentially—millions of voicemail messages that violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The messages violated the FDCPA because collectors for Capital Management did not identify the company or disclose that they were debt collectors collecting a debt.
Mark Anderson is a consumer rights lawyer and blogger in California, and now a member of the Caveat Emptor lawyer directory. Mark has handled thousands of lemon law cases, as well as cases involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and class actions.
To contact Mark, visit his California consumer lawyer profile.
Mortgage loan modifications are hard to come by, especially since banks are foreclosing before consumers have a chance to get a modification. In an effort to halt foreclosures in Minnesota so that consumers can get modifications, the Foreclosure Relief Law Project has filed a class action on behalf of homeowners, and asked the Minnesota U.S. District Court for an injunction.
If successful, the lawsuit will stop foreclosures until the government and lenders put fair loan modification procedures in place. FRLP wants lenders to have to explain loan modification denials, so that consumers and advocates will get a better idea when they are eligible.
The lawsuit is modeled after similar lawsuits filed in the early 1980s, which sought and successfully stopped all farm foreclosures until the government ensured that the farmers’ procedural due process rights were not violated when administering a similar foreclosure prevention program.
Foreclosure Relief Law Project files class action lawsuit to halt foreclosures in Minnesota | Housing Preservation Project