Justia Consumer Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Blow v. Bijora, Inc.
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), an effective consent to automated calls is one that relates to the same subject matter covered by the challenged messages. Akira, a retailer, engaged Opt for text-message marketing services. Akira gathered 20,000 customers’ cell phone numbers for Opt’s messaging platform. Akira customers could join its “Text Club” by providing their cell phone numbers to Akira representatives inside stores, by texting to an opt-in number, or by completing an “Opt In Card,” stating that, “Information provided to Akira is used solely for providing you with exclusive information or special offers. Akira will never sell your information or use it for any other purpose.” In 2009-2011, Akira sent about 60 text messages advertising store promotions, events, contests, and sales to those customers, including Blow. In a purported class action, seeking $1.8 billion in damages, Blow alleged that Akira violated the TCPA, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by using an automatic telephone dialing system to make calls without the recipient’s express consent. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Akira. Blow’s attempt to parse her consent to accept some promotional information from Akira while rejecting “mass marketing” texts construed “consent” too narrowly. The court declined to award sanctions for frivolous filings. View "Blow v. Bijora, Inc." on Justia Law
Aker v. Collection Associates, LTD.
Medical service providers referred plaintiffs’ debts to defendants, who sent letters, demanding payment of the principal plus 5% interest. Plaintiffs claimed that this violated 15 U.S.C. 1692g(a)(1), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which states that debt collectors must specify the amount of the debt, and that Wisconsin law provides for interest (absent a contractual provision) only if a debt has been reduced to judgment, and any pre-judgment request for interest is forbidden. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Wis. Stat. 426.104(4)(b), the “safe harbor” for people who act in ways approved by the Administrator of Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions applies because the defendants sent the Administrator a letter asking whether they were entitled to add 5% interest to debts for the provision of medical services. The Administrator’s silence for 60 days resulted in deemed approval. The defendants were entitled to demand payment of both principal and interest, so the letters did not violate 15 U.S.C. 1692e(2)(A), which prohibits false representations about the character, amount, or legal status of a debt. The federal Act otherwise allows debt collectors to add interest when permitted by law. Plaintiffs’ debts arose under state contract law and are subject to the safe harbor provision. View "Aker v. Collection Associates, LTD." on Justia Law
Mains v. Citibank, N.A.
Mains executed a mortgage on his home with WAMU in 2006 and made timely payments for about two years. WAMU failed in 2008; the FDIC became its receiver. Chase purchased Mains’s mortgage. Mains fell behind on his payments. He requested loan modifications from Chase three times and discontinued making payments in March 2009. Chase sent Mains a default and acceleration notice in June. In April 2010, Citibank (Chase’s successor) filed for foreclosure in Clark County, Indiana. That court granted Citibank summary judgment in 2013. Mains unsuccessfully appealed, contending that Citibank had committed fraud because it was not the real party in interest but instructed its employees fraudulently to sign documents. In 2015, Mains filed a “rambling, 90‐page” federal court complaint, alleging that he had discovered new evidence that he could not have presented to the state court—undisclosed consent judgments, parties in interest, and evidence of robo‐signing. He claimed to have rescinded his mortgage. He alleged state law claims and violations of: the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, 12 U.S.C. 2601; the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1631; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692; and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961. The district court found that a decision for Mains would effectively nullify the state‐court judgment and dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker‐Feldman doctrine. The Seventh Circuit agreed, but modified so that the dismissal was without prejudice. View "Mains v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law
Pantoja v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC
Portfolio alleges that in 1993, Pantoja incurred a debt for annual fees, an activation fee, and late fees for a Capital One credit card that he applied for but never actually used. In 2013, long after the statute of limitations had run, Portfolio, having purchased bought Capital One’s rights to this old debt, sent Pantoja a dunning letter trying to collect. The letter claimed that Patoja owed $1903 and offered several “settlement options.” The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692e, prohibits collectors of consumer debts from using “any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Pantoja on his claim under section 1692e. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the dunning letter was deceptive or misleading because it did not tell the consumer that Portfolio could not sue on the time‐barred debt and it did not tell the consumer that if he made, or even just agreed to make, a partial payment on the debt, he could restart the clock on the long‐expired statute of limitations, bringing a long‐dead debt back to life. View "Pantoja v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law
Cafferty, Clobes, Meriwether & Sprengel, LLP v. XO Communications Services, LLC
The law firm’s contract with XO Communications provided that the contract would be automatically renewed “for a similar term and at the same rates.” A customer who did not want to renew was required to notify XO at least 30 days before the expiration date in the contract. The contract provided that if the customer terminated the contract after the deadline it would have to pay a termination fee. XO’s monthly invoices contain a prominent reminder of the automatic renewal. After its third renewal, the firm wanted out of the contract because it was moving to a location not serviced by XO. The firm, not wanting to pay the $9,000 termination fee, filed a purported class action, alleging that XO’s monthly reminders should have included the date of the automatic renewal, or that XO should have otherwise notified the plaintiff of the renewal date. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal, noting that: "It’s not as if the plaintiff were some hapless consumer bamboozled by a huge company…. Had this substantial enterprise kept track of the date of its contract with XO (more precisely the date of its latest renewal of the contract), it would not have incurred the modest termination fee." View "Cafferty, Clobes, Meriwether & Sprengel, LLP v. XO Communications Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Eike v. Allergan, Inc.
The district court certified eight classes, consisting of persons in Illinois and Missouri who take eye drops manufactured by six pharmaceutical companies for treatment of glaucoma. Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants’ eye drops are unnecessarily large and wasteful, in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, 815 ILCS 505/1, and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, so that the price of the eye drops is excessive and that the large eye drops have a higher risk of side effects. There was no claim that members of the class have experienced side effects or have been harmed because they ran out of them early. The Seventh Circuit vacated with instructions to dismiss. The court noted possible legitimate reasons for large drops, the absence of any misrepresentation or collusion, and that defendants’ large eye drops have been approved by the FDA for safety and efficacy. “You cannot sue a company and argue only ‘it could do better by us,’” nor can one bring a suit in federal court without pleading that one has been injured. The plaintiffs allege only “disappointment.” View "Eike v. Allergan, Inc." on Justia Law
Zahn v. North American Power & Gas, LLC
Until 1997, Illinois residents could only purchase power from a public utility, with rates regulated by the ICC. The Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law allows residents to buy electricity from their local public utility, another utility, or an Alternative Retail Electric Supplier (ARES). The ICC was not given rate-making authority over ARESs, but was given oversight responsibilities. The Law did not explicitly provide a mechanism for recovering damages from an ARES related to rates. Zahn purchased electricity from NAPG, after receiving an offer of a “New Customer Rate” of $.0499 per kilowatt hour in her first month, followed by a “market-based variable rate.” Zahn never received NAPG’s “New Customer Rate.” NAPG charged her $.0599 per kilowatt hour for the first two months, followed by a rate higher than Zahn’s local public utility charged. Zahn filed a class-action complaint, claiming violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment. The court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, or for failure to state a claim. After the Illinois Supreme Court answered a certified question, stating that the ICC does not have exclusive jurisdiction to hear Zahn’s claims, the Seventh Circuit reversed. The district court had jurisdiction and Zahn alleged facts that, if true, could constitute a breach of contract or a deceptive business practice. View "Zahn v. North American Power & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law
Gubala v. Time Warner Cable, Inc.
Gubala subscribed to Time Warner’s cable services in 2004 and, as required, provided Time Warner with his date of birth, address, telephone numbers, social security number, and credit card information. In 2006, he cancelled his subscription. In 2014, upon inquiring, Gubala learned that all of his personal information remained in the company’s possession; none had been destroyed. Gubala filed a class-action suit for alleged violations of the Cable Communications Policy Act, 47 U.S.C. 551(e), which provides that a cable operator “shall destroy personally identifiable information if the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected and there are no pending requests or orders for access to such information [either by a cable subscriber, seeking access to his own information] … or pursuant to a court order.” The district judge dismissed the suit for lack of standing, stating that even if Gubala had standing, he failed to state a claim. He could not obtain an injunction, the only remedy he sought, because he had an adequate remedy at law (damages), but did not seek damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that the lack of any concrete injury inflicted or likely to be inflicted on Gubala precluded the relief sought. View "Gubala v. Time Warner Cable, Inc." on Justia Law
Perron v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Plaintiffs’ Indianapolis home had a mortgage serviced by J.P. Morgan Chase. In 2011 plaintiffs accused Chase of paying the wrong homeowner’s insurer using $1,422 from their escrow account. They had switched insurers without telling Chase. When Chase learned of the change, it promptly paid the new insurer and informed plaintiffs that their old insurer would send a refund. Chase told them to forward the refund to replenish the depleted escrow. When the refund came, plaintiffs kept the money. Chase adjusted their mortgage payment to make up the shortfall. When plaintiffs refused to pay the higher amount, the mortgage went into default. Instead of curing, they requested information under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), 12 U.S.C. 2601–2617, which requires the bank to correct account errors and disclose account information. They demanded that Chase reimburse their escrow. Chase sent a complete account history. Plaintiffs divorced, ending their 25-year marriage. They sued Chase, claiming that its response was inadequate under RESPA and caused more than $300,000 in damages—including the loss of their marriage— and claiming breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Chase. Chase’s response complied with its RESPA duties. To the extent that any requested information was missing, plaintiffs suffered no actual damages. Nor did Chase breach the duty of good faith and fair dealing, assuming that Indiana would recognize the implied covenant in this context. View "Perron v. J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. State of Indiana
A veterans’ group challenged an anti‑robocall statute, Ind. Code 24‑5‑14‑5, under the First Amendment. The law prohibits automated calls with recorded messages unless the recipient has previously consented or the message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains consent. The Seventh Circuit upheld the law, noting that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, which contains similar restrictions, has been sustained by the Ninth and Eighth Circuits. The court rejected a claim of content-based discrimination. While the law exempts messages from school districts to students, parents, or employees; messages to recipients with whom the caller has a current business or personal relationship; messages advising employees of work schedules, nothing in the law, including those exceptions, disfavors political speech. The exceptions primarily concern who may be called, not what may be said. The court noted the legitimate purposes of the law. View "Patriotic Veterans, Inc. v. State of Indiana" on Justia Law