Amazon named in class action lawsuit over hiring practices

This class action lawsuit brought on behalf of applicants for employment Defendant Amazon.com, Inc. and employment placement services with Defendants SMX, LLC and Staff Management Solutions, LLC, collectively doing  business as “Staff Management | SMX, a TrueBlue Company” a national employment staffing agency.

As alleged, Defendants systematically use consumer reports to make adverse  employment decisions without, beforehand, providing the person who is the subject of the report sufficient and timely notification and a copy of the report and a summary of rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  This effectively leaves the person who is the subject of the report without any opportunity to correct any errors on the report or to even know who prepared the background report about him or her which formed a basis for the adverse action.

The FCRA regulates “consumer reports” for employment purposes, commonly called “background reports.” Congress included in the FCRA a series of due-process-like protections that impose strict procedural rules on “users of consumer reports,” such as Amazon and SMX. This action involves Defendants’ systematic violations of those important rules.

Plaintiff was denied employment as a puller at Amazon based on a standardized background report conducted by Sterling Infosystems, Inc. (“Sterling”) pursuant to an agreement between Sterling and SMX. Sterling “scored” Plaintiff as not eligible for the job with Amazon based upon the purported existence of a felony conviction.

In violation of the FCRA, Defendants failed to comply with the FCRA’s mandatory pre-adverse action notification requirement, and failed to provide a copy of the inaccurate background report they obtained from Sterling, before talking adverse action.

Plaintiff seeks monetary relief for himself and a class of similarly situated employment applicants to whom Defendants failed to comply with pre-adverse action notification.

PayDay Financial, LLC named in class action over usurious interest rates

This is a Class Action Complaint brought to obtain declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief on behalf of a class of individuals who responded to advertisements made by a group of affiliated South Dakota business entities offering consumer loans via the Internet. The lenders conspired to charge illegal interest rates and defraud consumers by stating that the lenders and collectors are exempt from United States laws because of an affiliation with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (“Tribe”). The loans had a minimum annual percentage rate (APR) of 89.68 o/o-ten times the legal limit-and up to 342.86 %. The usurious nature of the interest rates renders them void; similarly, the deceptive and misleading nature of the groups’ marketing materials and loan documents violate state consumer protection laws.

The Lending Defendants, PayDay Financial, LLC and Western Sky, LLP, marketed fast, accessible, low-barrier loans to Plaintiffs and members of the class; in doing so, they preyed upon individuals who needed access to money as quickly as possible in order to meet their most basic human needs. The Lending Defendants took advantage of the weak and necessitous position of their target consumers by charging astonishingly high interest rates knowing that people will do whatever it takes to provide food for their family or keep their home out of foreclosure–even if the measure would only last a short time. The Lending Defendants provided the proverbial “desperate measure” for the desperate times in which Plaintiffs and members of the class found themselves. Loan fees and interest rates were lower, but still usurious, for higher dollar amount loans thus incentivizing borrowers to take more money than they needed.

As alleged, the Lending Defendants know that their interest rates are usurious so they developed what they, upon information and belief, believe is a “legal loop hole”-requiring Plaintiff and members of the class to agree to an exculpatory clause that purportedly extinguishes any right the consumer has to apply United States law to the relationship. The loan agreements state that only the Tribe’s law will apply to the relationship between consumers and the Lending Defendants and the consumer may not sue in any court of the United States or any state. But the loan agreement has nothing to do with Tribal law. The Lending Defendants are South Dakota limited liability companies marketing and providing services to consumers throughout the United States using web servers located in the State of California.

As claimed, the Lending Defendants cannot avoid the courts and laws of South Dakota, Minnesota, Virginia, or Texas–or the courts and laws of any other state or the United States by the mere fact that its controlling owner is a member of an American Indian tribe. Employees are mostly tribal members and their primary place of business is on tribal land. Similarly, Defendants cannot contract away their duty to follow the laws of each and every state in which they do business. This lawsuit seeks to end the Lending Defendants’ illegal scheme to skirt the law and make consumers whole by returning Defendants’ ill-gotten profits to consumers they have harmed.

Security Credit Services, LLC and Jacob Law Group, PLLC settle with FTC over deceptive practices

The FTC alleged that the defendants – a debt buyer and a debt collection law firm — both based in Mississippi – violated the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by deceptively charging consumers a fee for payments authorized by telephone.  According to the FTC, the defendants led consumers to believe that the fee was unavoidable when, in fact, those who paid by mail or online did not incur the fee.  The FTC also alleged that the companies violated the laws by falsely threatening to sue consumers as a means of getting them to pay.  A debt collector is prohibited by law from using false, deceptive, or misleading representations or tactics when collecting a debt.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the defendants will pay $799,958 in restitution for consumers and are barred from making any misrepresentations when collecting a debt, including false claims that consumers must pay an extra fee when making payments on a debt or that they will be sued for not paying a debt.

Nationstar Mortgage, LLC named in class action over failure to honor applicants of the Home Affordable Modification Program

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The lawsuit was brought  on behalf of a class of homeowners across the nation (the “Class”) to challenge Defendant Nationstar Mortgage, LLC’s (“Defendant” or “Nationstar”) intentional and systematic failure to provide permanent loan modifications to borrowers who signed Permanent Modification Agreements (“PMAs”) under the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).

As alleged, Nationstar has serially failed to honor its express and implied contractual obligations under its PMAs, has made repeated misrepresentations of material fact, and has engaged in business practices that are deceptive, immoral, unscrupulous, unfair, and oppressive under California law.

Under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”), also known as the taxpayer bailout, the United States Government provided the nation’s largest financial institutions with nearly $700 billion in funds to address what was widely accepted as an unprecedented financial crisis.

A key feature of TARP is the Making Home Affordable Program, of which the HAMP is a major component. Under the HAMP, servicers like Nationstar and other major lenders receive incentive payments for providing mortgage loan modifications to eligible borrowers such as Plaintiff Burton and the putative Class.

In or around May 2009, Nationstar signed a contract with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, through its agent, Fannie Mae, agreeing to participate in the HAMP as an approved HAMP servicer. Nationstar thereafter executed an amended Servicer Participation Agreement (“SPA”) in or around September 2010.

As a HAMP servicer, Nationstar entered into written PMAs for modifications with Plaintiff and other eligible Nationstar borrowers. These PMAs, which were form contracts, expressly required Nationstar to permanently modify the borrower’s loan pursuant to the terms of the PMA.

Plaintiff and the members of the putative Class complied with their obligations under their TPP Agreements and PMAs by executing and submitting all required documentation, answering all questions truthfully, keeping their representations true and accurate, and making their required trial period payments. Despite Plaintiff’s and the other Class Members’ full performance,

According to the complaint, Nationstar has ignored its obligations under their PMAs and the HAMP by refusing to permanently modify their loans. Nationstar’s failure to permanently modify its borrowers’ loans is no accident. To the contrary, Nationstar has knowingly established a system designed to wrongfully deprive its eligible HAMP borrowers of an opportunity to modify their mortgages, pay their loans, and save their houses from foreclosure. Nationstar’s actions, which serve only its interest in extracting as much money as possible from borrowers it deems are at risk of default, thwart the very purpose of HAMP, constitute express and implied breaches of its various contracts, and amount to immoral, unlawful, and unfair business practices under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

A copy of a complaint may be viewed here: Nationstar 3-19-13

 

Sarpes Beverages, LLC named in class action over false and misleading claims associated with Dream Water

Sarpes Beverages is a Florida company that manufactures, markets, and sells bottled water known as “Dream Water”. Defendant claims Dream Water is an all-natural revolutionary sleep and relaxation beverage made up of a proprietary combination of three natural relaxation ingredients: GABA, Melatonin and 5-htp. Through its advertising and labeling, Defendant promises that its miraculous water works for anyone who needs to relax, fall asleep or stay asleep and that Dream Water will “transport [users] to a sound and restful sleep.” Dream Water, according to Defendant, has no side effects and provides its amazing sleep benefits without making users feel groggy or drowsy the next day like other over-the counter and prescription sleep aids.

Defendant guarantees that Dream Water will work. Although Defendant used or uses images and language to represent that these claims about its products have been clinically proven and endorsed by medical organizations and professionals, the reality is that Defendant has no such support for its baseless representations; and, in fact, Defendant’s representations are false. Defendant simply is and has been misrepresenting the effectiveness of its products to the general public, in order to reap windfall profits. Dream Water really is just over-priced water. Defendant has conveyed and continues to convey its deceptive claims about Dream Water through a variety of media, including product packaging, the Internet (including misleading testimonials) and point of sale displays.

As alleged, Defendant has succeeded in designing its advertising and marketing campaign in Florida and disseminating its deceptive and false claims nationwide to cause consumers throughout Florida and the rest of the United States to buy Dream Water as a result of this deceptive message. Dream Water is now sold in airports throughout the country, over the Internet, and through national retail giants, including Food4Less®, Safeway®, CVS, Walgreens, K-Mart, Wal-Mart,and Winn-Dixie. . Dream Water is sold in flavors such as “snoozeberry,” “nighttea night,” and “paradise pm.” It comes in 2.5 ounce “sleep shots”. A twelve- pack of “sleep shots” costs $38.99.

4. Plaintiff was aggrieved by Defendant’s deceptive conduct. Plaintiff was exposed to Defendant’s misrepresentations about Dream Water, bought and paid for Dream Water, but received none of the intended benefits. Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of herself and other similarly-situated consumers, who purchased Defendant’s Dream Water products in order to halt the dissemination of this false and misleading advertising message, correct the false and misleading perception Defendant has created in the minds of consumers, and to obtain redress for those who have purchased Defendant’s products.

LAS VEGAS SANDS, LLC, VENETIAN CASINO RESORT sued over inflated resort fees

As alleged in the complaint, Defendants employ deceptive, unlawful, and unfair business practices to mislead consumers about the true cost of their hotel rooms. For these consumers, Defendants disclose a “grand total” room price that includes applicable taxes and appears to include all non-incidental charges. However, once a consumer checks into the hotel. Defendants also charge a separate “resort fee” and taxes thereon, regardless of whether a consumer wants or uses any of the goods and services covered by the fee, which results in the consumer paying a higher price for the room than the disclosed “grand total.” The requirement to pay a resort fee that is not part of the “grand total” is not adequately disclosed to consumers until they are locked into their reservations and have become obligated to pay the fee.

Further, Defendants unlawfully charge Clark County, Nevada’s Combined Transient Lodging tax rate, which is nearly one and one-halftimes higher than Nevada’s general sales or use tax, to consumers on the cost of the resort fee. Since this is not a mandatory charge for renting any room, Defendants are overcharging consumers who pay this discretionary fee at a higher rate of taxation than actually applies under applicable tax laws.

Defendants, while maintaining that the daily resort fee is mandatory and non-waivable to most of their guests, in fact do not charge any resort fee for hotel room rentals purchased either through a group booking, by international guests, or for particular hotel room categories. Defendants appear to have complete discretion over whether to charge a particular guest the resort fee.

Whether or not the “resort fee” is a “mandatory” charge for consumers, Defendants have committed unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices in their disclosure and imposition of the fee and the taxes thereon. lfthe resort fee is deemed a mandatory charge, then Defendants have engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by deliberately and deceitfully decoupling this charge from the advertised ”grand total” price of their rooms in an effort to achieve the appearance of a more competitive rate, thereby baiting consumers into reserving their rooms and only after they are locked in disclosing the true cost to them.

Defendants have engaged in an unlawful business practice by charging an inflated 12% lodging tax on the resort fee when they do not require all of their guests to pay this fee, and the optional goods and services that the fee covers either are exempt from taxation or else are subject to the lower 8.1% State and local sales tax rate. Defendants’ practice of charging guests a non-applicable and inflated 12% lodging tax on the discretionary resort fee is an unlawful business practice.