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Consumer Rights: Allstate settles a false advertising lawsuit in California

Friday, January 06, 2017

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently reported that district attorneys in three counties in California had reached a $600 million settlement in a false advertising lawsuit against the insurance giant Allstate. At issue was Allstate’s advertising claims that it offers accident forgiveness for its line of automobile insurance policies. The problem is that Allstate neglected to mention sufficiently that this feature is not available in the state of California, where it has been prohibited, thanks to the passage of Proposition 103 in 1988.

The ads started in 2012 and reached 90 percent of California households, including Spanish-speaking ones in the state. Even though the ads offered a small disclaimer at the bottom of the TV screen, the district attorneys decided that it was insufficient and in violation of consumer rights and therefore filed suit. California law states that material facts in an ad have to be clear and conspicuous, which the disclaimer was not.

The settlement, typical of such things, allowed Allstate not to admit to liability while paying $75,000 in investigative costs and $525,000 in civil liability. The company decided that paying the money up front would be better for its bottom line than going to trial and risking having to pay an even larger settlement.

The suit and its result should serve as a warning for companies that think using fine print will protect them from false advertising litigation. States such as California have started to judge this practice as false advertising even though, technically, correct information is given in the ad.

For more information contact us.



Los Angeles Man Sues Krispy Kreme for False Advertising on the Fruit Content of Donuts

Friday, December 30, 2016

According to a recent story in Fortune, a Los Angeles man named Jason Saidian has filed suit against the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Company in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Saidian is claiming that the firm is engaged in false advertising false advertising concerning some of the ingredients in its doughnuts and is asking for class-action status for his suit and $5 million.

At issue is the advertising Krispy Kreme conducts for some of its doughnuts, specifically the “Glazed Raspberry Filled,” “Maple Bar,” and “Glazed Blueberry Cake” varieties. Saidian asserts that these doughnuts do not actually contain raspberry, maple, or blueberry but rather artificial ingredients that mimic the taste of these natural substances. Hence, the false advertising charge. He further asserts that KrispyKreme has used real fruit in its glazed lemon-filled and glazed strawberry-filled doughnuts, compounding the confusion.

Saidian also suggests that he and other customers have been cheated of the health benefits that real raspberries and blueberries impart, especially against heart disease and cancer. The idea that doughnuts in any form could be healthy is a bold one to make, considering the starch and sugar the confection contains.

The plaintiff claims that had he or any other customer known that these varieties of doughnuts did not contain real fruit, they would have been less likely to buy them or, at the very least, they would have sold at a lower price. Krispy Kremein accordance with its policy concerning ongoing litigation, is refusing to comment at this time.

For more information contact us.




Class-Action Filed Against Comcast for Confusing Fees on Cable Bills

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Recently, according to Wired, a group of eight Comcast customers filed a class-action lawsuit against the cable giant. At issue is Comcast’s practice of tacking on a variety of fees and surcharges to its base bill, often so confusing that customers cannot ascertain whether they are legitimate or not. The plaintiffs claim that Comcast is engaged in deceptive advertising by promising to charge a fixed monthly rate but instead adding a variety of concealed fees that jacked up the cost of cable their service. The cable company denies this allegation, maintaining that it does inform customers up front that it includes a variety of taxes and fees in the fine print of its contracts.

The class action, whose outcome is uncertain, has been filed as the Federal Communications Commission is starting to take a more serious look at the practice of adding fees that customers often find confusing. The lawsuit, even if it does not succeed in a court of law, may inspire federal, state, and local governments to step in and reform the practice that cable customers find maddening.

The cause of the problem has been a dearth of competition for cable services in many markets. Companies like Comcast engage in practices like tacked-on fees because they can get away with it. Changing cable providers can be a challenging and disruptive process, involving swapping out home equipment and ascertaining competing plans that may be confusing and with details obscured in the fine print. One reform may be to facilitate both competition and transparency in home cable services, the better to disincentivize predatory pricing practices.

For more information contact us.



Employment law and the sick or injured: Have you been unlawfully terminated?

Friday, December 09, 2016

Becoming ill or being injured is difficult and stressful under any circumstance. Unfortunately, some employers choose to break the law and throw unlawful termination into the mix.

Employees in California are protected from discrimination that is a result of a medical condition. There are federal and state laws in place ensuring employees receive fair and just treatment by their employer if they become sick or injured.

The Spencer Law Firm helps people like you navigate the intricate laws that govern employment and illness/injury every day.

Because there are certain filing requirements before a case is eligible to be filed in a court of law, we encourage you to contact us immediately. In California victims of wrongful termination are required to file with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH). Both agencies have very strict time limit requirements. If you wait too long to file you will not be allowed to move forward with your case.

There are times when filing a case in state court would be more advantageous to you. At The Spencer Law Firm we will work with you to determine if you have a viable case. We will help you determine if a federal court or state court would be the ideal venue for you to present your case.

It is important to remember to refrain from doing things like "trashing" your former employer on social media. Such missteps can doom a case before it even starts.

We encourage you to contact our Employment Law legal team to guide you through this very complicated process and help you avoid common mistakes that could destroy your case.



Employment Law: Meal and Rest Breaks, a Brief Overview

Friday, December 02, 2016

California employment law sets forth the circumstances under which employers must provide meal and rest breaks to employees and under what circumstances those breaks must be paid.

Employees must be given at least a ten minute paid rest break for every four hours, "or major fraction thereof", of work. Anything over two hours is considered a major fraction of four. Employees who work at least six hours, but not more than ten, are entitled to a second paid rest break.

For meals, an employer must provide at least a thirty-minute break to an employee once the employee has worked five hours. This meal break need not be paid, but the employee must be relieved of all work duties during that time and must be free to leave the employer's premises. If an employee works six hours or less a day, the employee can waive, or give up, the right to a meal break if the employer agrees.

An employee who works ten or more hours in a day is entitled to a second unpaid meal break of at least thirty minutes. The break must be provided no later than the end of the tenth hour of work. If not working more than twelve hours in a day, an employee may, with employer consent, waive the second meal break. The employee may not waive both meal breaks in one day, however.

If the nature of the work is such that it prevents an employee from taking a break from all duties, employers must provide a paid, on-duty meal period, compensated at the employee's regular rate of pay. The employee and employer must agree, in writing, to on-duty meal breaks. The employee is free to revoke the agreement, in writing, at any time.

If an employer fails to provide legally required breaks, or if an employer fails to pay for those breaks when it is legally required to do so, it faces penalties and the payment of back wages to the wronged employee. To learn more, contact us.




The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Fiasco is Attracting Several Class Actions

Monday, November 28, 2016

Samsung has managed to create a smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, that turned out to be an IED that you can put in your pocket. The phone, the latest in the Samsung line, exhibited a tendency to catch on fire spontaneously. The phone was banned from airlines. Finally, two months after the Galaxy Note 7 was rolled out, Samsung ended production of the phone and began a massive recall. But, according to CNBC, what is turning out to be the costliest tech product failure in history is just the beginning of Samsung’s woes.

Three Galaxy Note 7 customers have filed in federal court in New Jersey, signaling their intention of slapping Samsung with a class action lawsuit. At issue is the fact that some weeks passed between the time the company told its customers to discontinue using the smartphones and the time they were given replacements. In the meantime, Samsung customers were charged monthly plan charges for devices they could not use.

The New Jersey class action is not the only litigation that has arisen from the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. BRG notes that another action has been filed in Samsung’s home country of South Korea. Attorneys at a Seoul law firm have filed suit on behalf of 527 Galaxy Note 7 customers alleging economic hardship as a result of the fiasco. The company is alleged to have replaced the Galaxy Note 7s with replacement phones that then also had to be recalled and replaced. The plaintiffs are asking for about $400 each. The suit is said to be just the first of many in South Korea arising out of the catastrophe.

For more information contact us.




Know Your Rights When It Comes To Identity Theft

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Identity theft is a widespread, and it can happen to anyone. However, there is no need to panic. You do have rights when it comes to identity theft. You just have to know them and act on them. So, when someone starts using your information to open new accounts or get services, here is what you do.

First Steps:

Start with going to the FTC homepage and reporting the theft. Once you have the report in hand, you can use it to make credit bureaus put a 7-year extended fraud alert on your account. That means that the creditor has to alert you whenever someone opens a line of credit in your name. The bureaus will also issue a 90-day initial fraud alert, which tells creditors to take reasonable steps to verify that it is you that is opening lines of credit in your name.

Most importantly, having the identity theft report means that credit bureaus have to take fraudulent information off your reports. Give creditors and debt collectors the identity theft reports, too, as this will stop them from reporting fraudulent accounts to the bureaus.

Rights:

You have the right to copies of documents concerning the theft, and any debt collectors have to provide you with written information about any debt. You can get debt collectors to stop contacting you about any debts.

Financial Protection:

Under federal law, your financial losses are limited by the amount of time it takes for you to report the theft. If you report it before any unauthorized purchases are made, you are safe from any charges. If someone steals your credit card, the most that the card providers can charge you is $50.

The ATM or debit card is a little more complicated. If someone used your debit card number, you won't be charged for anything if you report the theft within 60 days of getting your statement. Someone using your ATM card is different: if you report it within 2 business days after you learn of the theft, you are liable for $50. If you wait up to 60 days, you are liable for $500. After 60 days, your financial liability goes through the roof. Reporting earlier is better.

Californian's Rights:

Here in California, you can report the theft to the local police department, and the officer you make your report to will probably give you forms for requesting information from credit bureaus. If the officer doesn't, you can get the forms at the OAG website on the Consumer Information Sheet 3A: Requesting Information on Fraudulent Accounts page.

California allows you to freeze your accounts so no bureau can share your information without your permission. This is highly recommended, and you can learn how to do this at CIS 10: How to Freeze Your Credit Files page.

As you can see, you have protections and rights when it comes to this kind of fraud. If you are a victim of identity theft, contact us. We will help you get back your peace of mind.



Employment Law: Retaliation Other Than Termination

Friday, November 11, 2016

When employees take action on unsafe work conditions, laws in California provide protection. While termination may be the first form of retaliation that employees think of, other adverse actions by an employer may also be prohibited by law.

Protection from lesser forms of retaliation is fundamentally the same as protection from termination. In practice, however, lesser forms of retaliation can be more difficult to pursue.

Cal/OSHA protection extends to employees who files a complaint against an employer with the agency and to employees who refuse to work under conditions that violate the California labor code and which are an imminent hazard.

Retaliation encompasses a variety of actions but generally means any adverse treatment. This can include, demotion, removal of future promotion opportunities, undesirable work assignments or shifts, creating a hostile work environment, unequal treatment compared to similar employees with regards to vacation choice or overtime opportunities. Many other mistreatments could also be retaliation.

An important hurdle in managing a retaliation issue is that adverse treatment is only retaliation if done in response to the employee acting on a safety issue. An employer who is willing to retaliate may carefully build a case pinning their action to other issues, including job performance. Since everyone has positives and negatives in their job performance, the employer may succeed simply by emphasizing the negatives and remaining silent on the positives.

Most people have good instincts about being treated fairly and about why they are treated unfairly. Unfortunately, having a good instinct is not be enough to legally protect yourself. If you believe that you are being treated adversely because of your stance on a health or safety issue, a conversation with a qualified attorney may help. Please call.




Protecting Your Consumer Rights in California

Friday, November 04, 2016

Consumers have numerous rights under both California and federal laws. Protecting your rights under the law is important; consumers are often victims of fraudulent business practices or untrue or misleading advertising. In these cases, an attorney who has experience protecting consumer rights can help.

Fraudulent Business Practices

Consumers can encounter a number of problems, particularly when dealing with credit. Some examples include:

  • Fake charging and overcharging – charges that show up on your bank accounts or credit card statements that you never authorized.
  • Hidden fees – credit card companies, mortgage companies and banks have a fiduciary responsibility to disclose any fees you may be responsible for. These fees include overdraft, over-the-limit fees, annual fees and more. However, consumers often find hidden transaction fees when they least expect them.
  • Creditor problems – creditors have a responsibility to accurately report your payment history to credit reporting agencies. If the reports they make are not accurate, you could face problems getting a home loan, credit card or auto loan. Creditors are also prohibited from harassing consumers when they fall behind on payments.

False and Misleading Advertising

We are inundated with advertising; on television, via email, on the internet and in our regular mailboxes. Sadly, companies are not always leveling with us when they advertise their products or services. Whether you have accepted a free trial to a product and found you are being charged monthly for an ongoing subscription which was "part" of the free offer, a product manufacturer has made unwarranted health claims or a provider of services has misled you about their abilities you have the right to fight back.

Chances are, if you have faced any of these issues, you are not the only one. Consumers can band together and file class action lawsuits against companies that have unfair business practices. If you believe you are one person out of hundreds, or even thousands who have been deceived by a company, contact The Spencer Law Firm.



Employment Law: Evidence Against an Employer

Friday, October 28, 2016

If an employee decides to take legal action against their employer, they will need evidence supporting their assertions. The best time to obtain this evidence is before leaving. However, caution must be taken in how evidence is obtained. The basic principle is to respect the ownership of evidence, which can be difficult in a digital world.

Company e-mails and other files (physical and electronic) belong to the employer. This is true even for e-mails addressed to the affected employee. Employees do not have a right to take this information in any form.

Taking notes is normally permitted. The most important information to capture in such notes is; the date, the persons involved, and a summary of the topic. This will allow later recovery of the evidence in a process called discovery, which is a court order that requires the employer to turn over information pertinent to a case.

If evidence is obtained properly, with court authority, it can be used in a legal proceeding. If evidence is obtained improperly, it normally cannot be used. Tragically employees may make the most compelling evidence unusable because they took the most outrageous items.

Each jurisdiction has a complicated system concerning rules of evidence that goes far beyond this basic principle. Discussing it meaningfully in this format is not possible. The important points to remember are;

  1. Think about what evidence supports your position
  2. Respect ownership

If you are planning an action, it may be smart to discuss the case with an experienced attorney, including evidence, before leaving. If you find it necessary to leave or are forced to leave, this may put you in the best possible position. Please contact us if you would like to discuss further.




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