Consumer Protection

Consumer protection class action certified against iIllegal debt collection

CACH LLC

CACH LLC, along with SquareTwo Financial, and Suttell & Hammer are defendants in a class action that was just certified today, The consumer protection lawsuit attempts to recover on behalf of victims of Defendants’ unfair debt collection practices.

Today, King County Superior Court Judge Samuel Chung granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification against Defendants Cach, LLC, SquareTwo Financial Corp., and Suttell & Hammer, P.S. The case pursues recovery for Washington state consumers who were the victims of illegal debt collection. Defendants admit that they did not ever have a debt collector’s license, yet they solicited claims for collection and attempted to collect claims owed to another party. This was in violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (RCW 19.86.010 – .920), RCW 19.16.120, RCW 19.16.250, RCW 19.16.260.

Why all parents should care about Data Privacy for their families. #PrivacyAware

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let's do what we can to defend our children's privacy.

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let’s do what we can to defend our children’s privacy. #PrivacyAware

Today, January 28, 2016, is Data Privacy Day.  Big deal? It actually is: The first Data Privacy Day that occurred in the United States and Canada was in 2008, which was observed as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. Data Protection Day commemorates the Jan. 28, 1981 signing of Convention 108, which was the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection.

Now led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), Data Privacy Day has become the signature event promoting privacy awareness. Without committed defenders of privacy, like the Electronics Frontier Foundation, we would not have seen a complaint filed with the FTC against Google for unauthorized collection of school aged children’s information, when they are using Google Apps and Chromebooks in their schools. Google’s unauthorized collection of personal information from school children via Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE)—caught the attention of Senator Al Franken, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Franken responded by writing a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for information about GAFE’s privacy practices.

The first step to ensure that our student privacy campaign succeeds, is to educate ourselves as parents. This way, we can direct our energy and knowledge effectively. On this Data Privacy Day, take the time to check out the resources that the Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled to regain control of your children’s privacy. Please spread the word about student privacy by sharing these and similar resources with other parents!

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that parents understand their and their children’s rights. We live in a world where parents may be asked by schools to waive those rights before their youngsters are permitted to use technology in the classroom. Third parties will too often encourage parents to give schools consent to release their children’s information to those very third parties.

Interested in becoming part of the “privacy defender team?” There are many ways in which you can get involved.

NOTE: This blog post is republished from my PrivacyLawDiva blog post.

 

Were you the victim of the T-Mobile/Experian Data Breach?

At least 330K WA state residents were affected by the TMobile/Experian data breach. We'd like to talk to you, if you believe that you were affected by this breach.

At least 330K WA state residents were affected by the TMobile/Experian data breach. We’d like to talk to you, if you believe that you were affected by this breach.

Today, according to WA State AG Bob Ferguson, about 330,000 Washington residents are among the 15 million people affected by the cyberattack on T-Mobile US data at credit-services company Experian. If you are a Washington  State resident and victim of the T-Mobile/Experian data breach, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com.  We are currently investigating a class action lawsuit against Experian.

WA AG Ferguson urges T-Mobile customers “…to take immediate steps to determine whether you have been a victim of ID theft, and to protect your information going forward,” he said in a statement offering advice to affected consumers.

According to T-Mobile and the credit-reporting company Experian, the breach compromised data that was used by T-Mobile to run credit checks of individuals who applied for T-Mobile services from Sept. 1, 2013, through Sept. 16, 2015. Unauthorized access was gained to Experian’s servers, exposing data including name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, other ID numbers (such as driver’s license, military ID, or passport numbers), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s credit assessment. An estimated 15 million consumers nationwide may have had their data compromised. Experian plans to notify affected consumers.

The Attorney General’s Office offers affected consumers the following advice to guard against identity theft.

  • Monitor your credit reports. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). You can request one free report from a different bureau every four months to monitor throughout the year.
  • Consider placing a “fraud alert” with each of the three credit bureaus. An alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your history. Creditors should contact you prior to opening a new account.
  • Consider placing a “security freeze” with each of the three credit bureaus to prohibit the release of any information from your reports. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history first. This increases the likelihood that if an ID thief tries to open a new account under your name, they will be denied.
  • Beware of unsolicited calls or emails offering credit monitoring or identity theft services.  Consumers should never provide their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal information in response to unsolicited emails or calls.

If you find unexplained activity on your credit reports, or if you believe you are the victim of identity theft, check these resources for information on steps you can take to protect yourself.

 

Calling all Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep & Ram owners: Do you choose $100 or risking your life?

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

Maybe owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram are just too busy or don’t care if they might lose control over their steering or have a defective rear axle. But their problem is exponentially greater because tens of thousands of owners have not responded to recall notices to fix their vehicles for faulty steering and/or suspension parts. It hasn’t helped that Fiat Chrysler dragged their feet in issuing recalls of over 11 million cars and trucks. Thus, this past July, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay a record $105 million penalty and to take steps following a government investigation of the company’s handling of 23 recalls involving the >11 million vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded that consumers be able to sell their vehicles back to the company if repairs haven’t been completed. Fiat Chrysler has estimated that more than 60 percent of the estimated 500,000 vehicles have already been repaired, leaving them ineligible for a buy back.

Owners of the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty who hadn’t taken their SUVs in for recall repairs for a faulty gas tank by July 24 are eligible for a $1,000 credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new Fiat Chrysler car or truck at a dealership. Owners who want to keep their vehicles get a $100 prepaid credit card after their repairs are complete.

Some of the $105 million penalty levied against Fiat Chrysler will go to offering buybacks, trade-in incentives or even cash to some drivers affected by the recalls. The company agreed to make all of these deals available in the next few weeks.

If you drive one of several Ram pickup models, or a 2009 Dodge Durango, a 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota or a 2009 Chrysler Aspen, your car qualifies for a buyback if it hasn’t been fixed yet. Eligible Ram pickups include the 1500 from model years 2008-2009 and the 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 from model years 2008-2012. Chrysler said that there are less than 200,000 of these vehicles on the roads.

Why Fiat Chrysler got in trouble: Those models were recalled two years ago for steering issues or loose rear axles. Either problem could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. To make matters worse, Chrysler didn’t make enough replacement parts or failed to provide “effective” parts after the initial recall, said Gordon Trowbridge, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Other Ram pickups have also been recalled for steering issues, but Trowbridge said that many more of those vehicles were fixed, so they’re not included in this program.

Solution: Whether you bought your vehicle new or used, bring it into a dealer. They’re required to buy the car back from you at “fair market value,” and to throw in a 10% premium. You can walk away with the all that money in cash, or use the money toward purchasing a new vehicle.

“Fair market value” is the original sticker price of the vehicle minus depreciation. The dealer will negotiate that value with you when you take it in. Check Kelly Blue Book or another used-car value benchmark to see what yours is potentially worth.
Who is eligible for a trade-in bonus

Older Jeep Grand Cherokee models are eligible for a trade in at above-market value. If you have a 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and you haven’t fixed the fuel tank problem it was recalled for, Fiat Chrysler is required to let you trade in your vehicle and give you a $1,000 credit. These Jeeps were recalled back in 2013 for fuel tanks that can leak after a rear-end collision. That issue has been linked to more than 75 deaths.
The fix: Take your SUV to a dealer and trade your Grand Cherokee in for a new car. The trade-in price will again be for “fair market value,” and the $1,000 can only be used toward purchasing another Fiat Chrysler vehicle or dealer parts and services. If you’d rather keep your Grand Cherokee, Fiat Chrysler must give you a $100 gift card (that you can use anywhere) when you take your SUV in to be fixed.

Who is eligible for a $100 gift card:  Some Jeep owners can take their car in for a fix and get a $100 gift card. You can also get a $100 gift card for bringing in a 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee or a 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty for a fix. Those vehicles also had concerns about faulty fuel tanks and were involved in recalls or “safety campaigns” by Fiat Chrysler. Solution: Take your SUV to a dealer, have your vehicle fixed or inspected, and get a $100 gift card that you can spend anywhere.

ID Theft guardian LifeLock fails to make good per FTC

Lifelock

EARLIER THIS YEAR, news of massive data breaches of Premera and Anthem felt like a one-two punch to many of us focused on protecting consumers. I got a lot of questions from clients and other attorneys, including “What can I do to protect my identity?” and “Should I sign up for any of those ID theft guards like LifeLock?” My responses to these questions are not simple. We can learn to guard against ID theft by remaining vigilant about our credit reports, credit card statements, bank statements, and the like. Sure, if one wants to delegate this responsibility to a third-party, then be prepared for disappointment.

The story of LifeLock’s last several years is a great example of why it’s not wise to leave the security of our ID to a turn-key operator. Some are astounded to find that the company claiming to provide ID theft guard solutions to consumers and businesses have failed in some key respects according to the FTC.

Customers of ID theft-protection firm Lifelock who expected the company to monitor their identities after their data was stolen in a breach were in for a surprise. It turns out Lifelock failed to properly secure their data. Ugh.

According to a complaint filed in court in late July 2015 by the Federal Trade Commission, Lifelock has failed to adhere to a 2010 order and settlement that required the company to establish and maintain a comprehensive security program to protect sensitive personal data users entrust to the company as part of its identity-theft protection service.

Wow. What a strange twist of irony: After all, Lifelock touts its self as the solution to companies that experience data breaches and urges them to offer a complimentary Lifelock subscription to people whose data has been compromised in a breach. To properly monitor victims’ credit accounts to protect them against ID theft, Lifelock requires a wealth of sensitive data, including names and addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and bank card information.

Protecting that data should be a primary concern to Lifelock, particularly in light of the fact that many of its customers have already been victims of a breach. But the FTC found in 2010 that the company had failed to provide “reasonable and appropriate security to prevent unauthorized access to personal information stored on its corporate network,” either in transit through its network, stored in a database, or transmitted over the internet.

Lifelock had been ordered to remedy that situation, but according to the complaint filed today, it has failed to do so. The complaint is currently sealed, but the previous finding from 2010 provides insight into the company’s security failures.

Lifelock’s CEO was himself a victim of data breach at least 13 times, btw. Call it karma.

NOTE: If you were/are an Amerigroup/Anthem insured in the State of Washington and received notice of a data breach, we want to talk to you. Please contact me via email at Catherine@Stritmatter.com. Participating in a class action lawsuit against a company who neglected to safeguard your personal information will not affect your ability to qualify for “free” id protection services offered by Anthem.

Brad J. Moore takes the helm as Public Justice President

SKW partner Brad J. Moore is ready to lead the nation's largest public interest law firm into 2016.

SKW partner Brad J. Moore is ready to lead the nation’s largest public interest law firm into 2016.

“I was meant to be a part of this place.”

That’s how Brad Moore, the newly elected President of the Public Justice Foundation, described the natural fit he sees between his work as a trial attorney and his commitment to Public Justice’s work.

Noting that his firm – Stritmatter Kessler Whelan – “has done three cases with Public Justice over the years,” Moore says that “The work that Public Justice does is right up my alley.”

The road leading to his year-long Presidency at the organization’s helm, which has just kicked off, began as early as Public Justice itself. He was introduced to the organization through his law partner and mentor, Paul Stritmatter, who is a founder of Public Justice. That, in turn, led to a close friendship with former president Jack Landskroner, who guided Moore on the path to his current leadership position on the board.

A career as a litigator, however, wasn’t always a sure thing.

Moore grew up with a lawyer for a dad (who would later become his law partner), and a mom who served as Majority Leader in the Washington State House of Representatives. His own journey to the law began, in part, as a tour guide through the Canadian Rockies. Moore led over 50, eight to ten day motorcoach tours throughout British Columbia and Alberta, and his stint as a tour guide revealed how comfortable he was with talking and engaging with people of varied backgrounds. As a result, “talking with and in front of jurors has come somewhat natural to me,” he says.

That, along with an influential Philosophy of Law class in college, led to Moore becoming a passionate advocate for insureds and consumers, injury victims and victims of defective products. His work fighting for those seeking justice makes him a perfect choice to lead Public Justice.

In addition to guiding Public Justice’s existing work in the States, Moore says another priority for his tenure as President will be finding ways to build relationships and associate with Canadian lawyers to pursue high impact public interest lawsuits in Canada.

“The things we care about as a public interest organization here in the States, Canadians also care about,” he notes. “Canadian trial attorneys are fighting so many important battles that are the same as we’re facing here: environmental degradation, preserving access to civil justice and civil rights advocacy, like this year’s Trial Lawyer of the Year finalist from Nova Scotia.”

“That’s why I’m looking into how we can create a strong presence up there.”

Reaching out across borders is another talent that comes naturally to Moore. Outside of his work and home in Seattle, he also has a home in Thailand. He has been fascinated by Southeast Asia since his first trip to the region in the mid-1980s, during which he became one of the first Americans to enter Vietnam following the end of the war.

Now Moore, who succeeds Esther Berezofsky as President of Public Justice, will turn that same passion for reaching out, building alliances and fighting for justice to his new role leading the organization into 2016.

NOTE: This article was republished from PublicJustice.net.

Fiat Chrysler Recall Farther Reaching than Takata Recall

2015 might just easily earn the dubious distinction as the Year of the Historic Recalls. We started off the year with news about the GM ignition recalls and the early months led to a great deal of hand-wringing over the massive Honda/Takata airbag recall. Now, the public is hit with news about the massive Fiat Chrysler recall. Given our firm’s long history of auto products liability cases, we continue to get requests to look at cases involving serious injuries resulting stemming from these recall issues.

Earlier this week, federal regulators slapped a $105 million penalty against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for its failure to complete 23 safety recalls that included over 11 million vehicles. If you’re wondering whether this is the highest civil penalty imposed yet by NHTSA on an automaker for recall violations, then you are right.

This recall also demonstrates an escalation of the agency’s efforts to investigate and punish automakers that do not adequately recall and fix defective models.

“This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously,” said the secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx.

In a statement, the automaker acknowledged the safety violations and agreed to the record penalties.

“We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us,” the company said.

The agency said the civil penalty was broken down into a cash penalty of $70 million, and an agreement that Fiat Chrysler would spend at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements detailed in the consent order. An additional penalty of $15 million will be assessed on the company if an independent monitor, who has yet to be announced, discovers further violations of safety laws or the consent order.

Under the order, Fiat Chrysler is required to buy back as many as 500,000 vehicles with defective suspensions that can cause drivers to lose control. Also, owners of more than one million Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to fires will be given an opportunity to trade in their vehicles at rates above market value.

Mark R. Rosekind, who took over as the administrator of the highway safety agency last December, said the heavy fine was a direct result of Fiat Chrysler’s prolonged failures to fix recalled models.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said.

The agency is authorized to impose a maximum fine of $35 million for an individual recall that is not completed in a timely manner.

The government’s action is the latest in a series of moves by Mr. Rosekind to put more pressure on automakers to fix defective vehicles.

“We need a proactive safety culture in this country,” he told reporters at a recent briefing in Detroit.

The agency has come under harsh criticism in Congress and by theTransportation Department’s inspector general for lax enforcement of auto safety regulations.

In Fiat Chrysler’s case, this month the government took the unusual step of holding a public hearing to focus on 23 separate recalls that date back to 2009. At the hearing, federal officials said the company had repeatedly failed to notify consumers of recalls and to complete repairs in a timely fashion.

The company’s top safety executive, Scott Kunselman, admitted the automaker had made “mistakes and missteps” in conducting recalls. “The agency has raised some legitimate questions,” he said at the hearing on July 2.

The automaker has started several new recalls since the hearing, including one on July 24, 2015 (this past Friday) that covered 1.4 million vehicles vulnerable to computer hackers.“The $105 million fine shows the need for an uncapped penalty,” said Clarence Ditlow, an official of the Center for Auto Safety who first petitioned the government to investigate the rear-mounted fuel tanks in Jeeps.

Fiat Chrysler is currently recalling 1.59 million Jeeps equipped with the rear-mounted gas tanks, which can catch on fire in high-speed collisions.

The company is installing trailer hitches on the affected Jeeps to soften the impact of rear-end collisions. But the rate of repairs in that recall has been slow, government investigators say.

Under the consent order, Jeep owners will have the option to trade in a vehicle for above market value or receive an unspecified payment from Fiat Chrysler to install a trailer hitch.

Weighing the Pros/Cons of Uber and Lyft

UBER PDX

On January 13, 2015, around 70 of Portland’s 460 Taxi cabs protested fair taxi laws by parking in Pioneer square. Organizers want city leaders to make ride-sharing companies play by the same rules as cabs and Town cars.(Photo: Aaron Parecki)

It’s summer, which means many of us are opting to find creative, less expensive ways to get to the airport. Personally, I’m in the minority among my friends when it comes to ride-hailing services like Uber. Why? I know too much about the insurance pitfalls, and can’t help but think about what might happen in the off chance that me or my family member might get injured as an Uber passenger.

Several days ago at a friend’s BBQ, I ran into one of my favorite neighbors who told me not to hug her too hard because she was involved in a horrible car accident with an Uber driver. When I asked her who was going to help her pay her medical bills, her response: “Good question. We’re still trying to figure that one out.”

This is one of the many problems that I have with ride-hailing services: They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. Why is it that they have escaped regulations and yet can exploit loopholes by calling themselves an “app” provider? They are quasi-taxi services, that have somehow figured out how to avoid the massive fees like medallions that hard-working taxi-drivers must deal with.  Despite the many headlines that keep popping up about Uber tragedies, where lack of insurance persists as a critical issue, people are willing to turn a blind eye because they think they’re saving money.

True: In California, Washington and other states, we are seeing more laws pass to address the insurance coverage gap. Thank goodness. But this still doesn’t make things as straightforward as if you were injured in a taxi or your friend’s car. Many Uber drivers have still not disclosed to their insurance companies that they derive some of their income as ride-hailing drivers. Ooops. What do you think their insurers will say, when they find out after their insured gets into an accident with some injured passengers?

Is it worth it, if you find yourself in an accident as an Uber passenger or in a car that an Uber driver hits while it’s carrying Uber passengers? Think long and hard the next time you want to use that clever app. Please.

 

 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Boeing Over Faulty Airbags

KING5 News reported on SKW’s lawsuit just filed against Boeing for the wrongful death of Ken Otto and for a flawed airbag system. The story provided high level details about how father, wife, and brother, Ken Otto, was robbed of his life when he chose to work on the seat belt airbag systems on a set of Boeing plans.

Ken Otto

While working with an assistant in tight quarters on a plane, the airbag deployed without warning and tore off half of Ken Otto’s face. Within several weeks, he died, leaving behind a tortured and grief stricken family.

The family will have to deal with this enormous void in their lives as well as the knowledge that Ken suffered excruciating pain and suffering after a preventable incident inside a Boeing 777.

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