Santa Monica, CA — To defend against further erosion of consumer rights in pending legislation, consumer advocates released a list of 125 consumer protection cases that have been assaulted by big business using previously imposed restrictions that were supposed to target only “shakedown” lawsuits.
The cases included public interest actions to stop:
– Invasion of medical privacy
– Unfair cell phone billing
– Disabled access barriers
– Dangerous drugs
– False advertising
– Public health threats, and
– Elder abuse
Summaries of these cases, and the list of all 125, can be found at:
“Big business is using the rallying cry of ‘frivolous’ lawsuits again as cover for their attack on Californians’ right to hold them accountable for violating consumer protection laws,” said Carmen Balber with FTCR. “There should be no hearing on this bill until the committee has examined how the last corporate attack on consumer protections decimated the ability of public interest groups to employ the courts to stop rip-offs and corruption of the marketplace.”
The cases were challenged using Proposition 64, a ballot measure passed in 2004, despite initiative proponents’ claims that the measure only targeted “frivolous” lawsuits, not legitimate consumer protection cases. The same companies behind the initiative are attacking consumer rights with AB 1505 (Parra) this year.
AB 1505 would drastically limit the public’s ability to bring class action lawsuits under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). The CLRA allows consumers to hold companies accountable for unfair and deceptive business practices when they buy a product or service, including protections against false advertising of the cost, quality or characteristics of products.
The bill’s strict new limits on consumers’ ability to bring class action lawsuits include changes that:
– Allow bureaucrats and political appointees to selectively enforce the law by requiring judges to determine whether administrative agencies have jurisdiction. The bill apparently requires courts to defer to those agencies whether they have acted or not.
– Require every class member to individually prove how they were harmed, before a class can even be certified. Many California laws, including the CLRA, specifically state that class members should not be required to individually prove harm. This restriction effectively eliminates the ability to aggregate small claims under consumer protection laws.
– Shift excessive costs to consumers, including the cost of notifying other consumers that a corporation may have wronged them.
– Enact restrictive rules for qualifying a class action to create impossibly high barriers to the courtroom, including limiting discovery of information that is crucial to proving a company’s wrongdoing.
– Allow corporations to target individual consumers — who may not be notified of the full extent of a company’s misconduct, and will most likely not have an attorney — with low-ball offers of “settlement.” This tactic will quickly lead to pressure and intimidation of individual class members and nullify the protection afforded by the group nature of class actions.
“The anti-consumer lobby that promoted Proposition 64 as a way to require class actions in UCL cases to ‘stop frivolous lawsuits’ is now trying to make it impossible to bring a class action case. AB 1505 targets the same kind of meritorious consumer protection claim — not supposed loopholes in the law, or frivolous suits,” said Balber.
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FTCR is California’s leading public interest watchdog. For more information, visit us on the web at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.