Welcome to the L E O N A R D  L A W  O F F I C E’s consumer protection law blog.

The mistreatment of consumers is one of the most interesting subjects in the law, and in the news.  Deception and misconduct in the marketplace has a long and colorful history. From the rattlesnake oil rheumatism cures peddled by immoral salesmen in the 1800′s, to modern day issues like robocalls, hidden fees, data breaches, questionable products aimed at weight loss, and anti-agingunfair business practices affect every aspect of American life. We are all consumers.

Snake Oil

Snake oil

If you want to talk about a consumer protection issue, (such as false advertising, unfair fees, an abusive landlord, bad products, etc.) you are welcome to contact us. We are currently representing consumers in class actions against:

Target

case type: data breach class action

Verizon

case type: “mystery fees” class action

Green Tree Servicing

case type: TCPA (robocalls) class action

L'Oreal Class Action

case type: false advertising class action

Equity Residential

case types: #1 “amenity fee” class action #2; habitability class action; #3 misc. fees class action

J. Crew Logo

case type: privacy class action

urbanoutfitters

case type: privacy class action

Kiehl's logo

case type: privacy class action

MAC

case type: privacy class action

state farm 1

case type: TCPA (robocalls) class action

whisper logo

case type: TCPA (text message /app spam) class action

Hangtime Logo

case type: TCPA (text message /app spam) class action

Fresh

case type: privacy class action

Patagonia

case type: privacy class action

Free People Logo Resized

case type: privacy class action

The BIP LOGO

case type: employee – independent contractor classification / wage & hour class action

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About these ads

The Target Data Breach Class ActionTarget

 

Update: (4/4/14)

The Target cases have been transferred (PDF) to Minnesota, Target’s home state.

Update: (1/21/14)

How to Limit Your Losses 

The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) offer protection if your credit, ATM, or debit cards are lost or stolen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obnoxious Robocalls, Unsolicited Text Messages, and Junk Faxes Are Often Unlawful

Examples of TCPA violations:

  • Bill receives a call on his cell phone from an unfamiliar number, and when he picks up, hears a pre-recorded voice offering to sell him something.  He is annoyed and hangs up. After Googling the phone number that called him, and reading all the complaints, it is clear the call was placed by a robocalling telemarketing operation.
  • Sarah sits on the subway on the way to work. She receives a text message from her new hairstylist: “Goddess hair salon offers text reminders. Reply with ‘Y’ to sign up. ” She never gave the salon permission to send her text messages in the first place.
  • Joan runs a small business. One day, she receives an unsolicited fax from a fast food company offering her coupons.

Text Messages and Federal Law

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “The TCPA and the FCC’s rules ban many text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer. These texts are banned unless (1) you previously gave consent to receive the message or (2) the message is sent for emergency purposes. This ban applies even if you have not placed your mobile phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list of numbers telemarketers must not call.

Robocalls aka Telemarketing Calls And Federal Law

Federal law regarding telemarketing calls is embodied in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) and FCC Rules enacted to interpret and enforce the purpose of the TCPA:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Leonard Law Office is representing clients regarding credit card privacy claims against J. Crew. This class action, alleging violations of Massachusetts privacy and consumer protection laws, was filed on June 20, 2013.

J crew

Information about the class action lawsuit against J. Crew

The complaint alleges that J. Crew collected ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts stores from customers who made purchases with credit cards, recorded that information as part of credit card transactions, and then used that information for marketing  purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.”  The complaint further alleges that:

  • J. Crew does not collect, record, and use the customers’ ZIP code information in order to verify the customer’s identity or for any other legitimate purpose in connection with the Credit Card transaction.
  • J. Crew uses this information for its own marketing and promotional purposes. Possession of the consumer’s ZIP code information, together with the customer’s name, enables Defendant to identify the customer’s address and/or telephone number through the use of publicly available databases.
  • J. Crew uses the ZIP code information it collects from customers and the addresses and other information it then obtains, to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail,” to customers, including Plaintiff and Class members.
  • J. Crew also has the ability to sell the ZIP code information it collects from customers (including Plaintiff and Class members) and the addresses and other information it then obtains, to third parties for a profit or to use the information for other marketing and promotional purposes.

Information about the Class

The proposed class would consist of all persons whose ZIP codes were collected and recorded at any J. Crew retail location in Massachusetts while making Credit Card purchases during the period from June 20, 2009 through June 20, 2013.   The class has not yet been certified.  If you have questions about whether you may be involved, you are welcome to contact the Leonard Law Office.

Information about J. Crew

J. Crew is a privately-held corporation, organized under the laws of Delaware with a principal place of business at 770 Broadway, New York NY 10003.  J. Crew has sixteen retail locations in Massachusetts, three of which are factory outlets and the remainder of which are traditional retail stores.

INVESTIGATION CLOSED – PLEASE REFER COMPLAINTS TO:

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Bank of America Logo

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Green Tree Logo

=

VICTIMS OF GREEN TREE SERVICING

AND BANK OF AMERICA


Preface

The Leonard Law Office has filed one class action lawsuit against Green Tree Servicing, and has no plans of filing any others. Despite misleading press accounts, we have no cases against Bank of America. Please do not call to ask about joining the Green Tree class action. Also, our case only relates to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and no other claims. if you are having other trouble with Green Tree (i.e foreclosure threats) you should probably seek advice from a lawyer in your area affiliated with the National Association of Consumer Advocates or complain to the CFPB or FTC.

Read the rest of this entry »

Collecting ZIP Codes is usually illegal in Massachusetts

A large number of locally-based and national retailers violate Massachusetts law by collecting ZIP codes from consumers who pay by credit card. When retailers go to data brokers such as Acxiom, Datalogix, CoreLogic, Trillium, or Pitney Bowes,  they can learn their customers’ mailing addresses and inundate them with unwanted junk mail.

The “Massachusetts Consumer Privacy In Commercial Transactions Statute,” or “Section 105(a)”:

Section 105. (a) No person, firm, partnership, corporation or other business entity that accepts a credit card for a business transaction shall write, cause to be written or require that a credit card holder write personal identification information, not required by the credit card issuer, on the credit card transaction form.” Read the rest of this entry »

Warning: If you have purchased any anti-wrinkle or anti-aging skin cream, serum, or other product, you may have been been misled by false advertising. "Anti-Aging" skin cream

 

“Anti-aging” skin creams are prevalent in pharmacies, supermarkets, and department stores throughout Massachusetts and America.  Amazon, CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Macy’s, and even Whole Foods sell an ever-increasing array of “anti-aging” products. Currently, “anti-aging lotions and potions are now 13 percent of all cosmetic sales and growing.”  Cosmetics companies have been selling products like these since the 1940′s, with marketing slogans such as:“I never dreamed I’d look this young at my age.”

The seminal case on the subject of deceptive marketing and age-defying skin cream is Charles of the Ritz Distribution v. FTC, 143 F.2d 676 (1944),  in which the Commission found:

Read the rest of this entry »

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Equity Residential

The Leonard Law Office, LLP is currently investigating Equity Residential’s business practices.  Former or current residents and employees are welcome to contact us with information. We have already filed one class action lawsuit against Equity Residential for allegedly violating the Massachusetts security deposit statute. 

Tenant Complaints

Equity Residential Watch has alleged that Equity Residential is guilty of “tenant abuse,” and “has a troubling history of flouting the law and violating tenants rights nationwide.”  Read that discussion here.

Greed

Sam Zell - Billionaire investor, Equity Residential Chairman Sam Zell clearly believes home ownership is not for everyone. He famously remarked during the subprime mortgage crisis, “We need to clean out all those people who never should have bought in the first place and not give them sympathy.”

Billionaire Sam Zell, photo by Bloomberg

Read the rest of this entry »

The Verizon Landline Fees Class Action

On July 3, 2013, after a one year investigation by this office, Verizon is facing a class action in federal court.  The case involves allegedly unfair fees imposed on Verizon landline accounts.

Verizon building - Hyannis MA

Verizon building – Hyannis MA

Under Investigation: Verizon’s Billing Practices

We want to hear from you! If you have complaints about Verizon, or have other information or questions about this matter, you are welcome to contact Preston W. Leonard, Esq. at pleonard@theleonardlawoffice.com or (617) 329-1295.

The class action complaint alleges:

  • An unlawful practice of Verizon of charging unauthorized minimum monthly account fees for long distance service to Verizon landline customers.
  • That the Plaintiff was been charged minimum monthly fees for long distance service; that is, he was charged for not using long distance service.
  • These minimum monthly charges were identified on Plaintiff’s statements as a “VES FirmRate Advantage Shortfall Charge” and were in addition to the standard voice-services charge paid by Plaintiff and the per-minute long distance charges Plaintiff paid for his actual use of long distance services.
  • Plaintiff was also double billed, and paid for, long distance, as described below, and in one month was charged for, and paid, an unexplained shortfall charge of $45.00.
  • Verizon has been charging its landline telephone customers minimum monthly fees for long distance service in an unfair and deceptive manner.
  • These fees have been identified by various names (on Verizon’s bills, on Verizon’s webpages, and in other sources and materials), including the following:
    • “Monthly minimum charge for long distance”
    • “Minimum Monthly Spend Levels”
    • “Minimum Spend Levels” or “MSL”
    • “Minimum Monthly Charge” or “MMC”
    • “VES FirmRate Advantage Shortfall Charge”
    • “Minimum Spend Levels (COMM)”
  • Verizon Landline subscribers receive no advance disclosure or notice of these fees prior to the time that they order and agree to receive and pay for landline service from Verizon Read the rest of this entry »

In a good decision [PDF] for TCPA class actions, Judge Posner today ruled for plaintiffs in ARNOLD CHAPMAN and PALDO SIGN & DISPLAY COMPANY, v. WAGENER EQUITIES, INC. and DANIEL WAGENER.

“…our decision in Holtzman v. Turza, 728 F.3d 682, 684 (7th Cir. 2013), holds that no monetary loss need be shown to entitle the junk‐fax recipient to statutory damages. Whether or not the user of the fax machine is an owner, he may be annoyed, distracted, or otherwise inconvenienced if his use of the machine is interrupted by unsolicited faxes to it, or if the machine wears out prematurely because of overuse attributable to junk faxes.”

In early 2013, the Leonard Law Office wrote to Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz challenging the “Greek Yogurt,” claim made on various yogurt products sold at Starbucks in Massachusetts.

Authentic Greek yogurt has two main ingredients: milk and active yogurt cultures. It differs from ordinary yogurt in that most of the whey is strained out of it, producing an end result that is higher in protein, lower in fat, and has a thicker consistency than ordinary yogurt. Greek yogurt costs more than ordinary yogurt because it requires more milk and more work to make it, and has health benefits that make Greek yogurt more desirable than ordinary yogurt.

Before: 

  • Contains Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Contains Pectin
  • Calories: 300
  • Protein: 8g
Starbucks greek yogurt label 600dpi black and white cropped

Starbucks’ previous “Greek Yogurt” version

After:

  • Whey Protein Concentrate 
  • Pectin
  • Calories: 260
  • Protein: 15g
2

Current Ingredients Label

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Current Lid Label — “15g of Protein”

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Starbucks has obviously changed the packaging and the product contained inside, despite Mr. Shultz’s lawyers dismissing the substance of the letter:

ScreenHunter_39 Mar. 30 20.28

“no legal basis”

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The new version tastes better, has more protein, fewer calories, and costs the same.

The Leonard Law Office and co-counsel have filed a wage suit against the Boston Institute for Psychotherapy (“The BIP“).  The class action complaint (PDF) alleges worker misclassification and other claims:

“…By treating certain employees as “independent contractors,” The BIP avoids
expenses commonly associated with having employees. These costs, to name a few, include employment tax, health insurance, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and other employee benefits…” 
 

The BIP is located at 1415 Beacon Street, Brookline, Massachusetts 02446. If you have information about the BIP concerning independent contractors/employees, and wages, or are a member of the proposed class, you are welcome to contact us.

The case was filed in federal court and has been assigned to Judge William G. Young.

U.S. District Court - District of Massachusetts

U.S. District Court – District of Massachusetts

Related Articles

Boston Business Journal, Therapist files suit against Boston Institue of Psychotherapy alleging violations of Wage Act, Independent Contractor law, March 28, 2014.

 

 

A class action lawsuit has been filed by the Leonard Law Office and co-counsel against Fresh. The case alleges that Fresh violated a Massachusetts credit card privacy law.

Fresh

Fresh — Newbury Street, Boston

Excerpts from the complaint:

Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of Fresh of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts store from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards, recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.

Information About Fresh:

Fresh is a for-profit corporation, organized under the laws of Delaware with a principal place of business at 560 Harrison Avenue, Suite 407, Boston, Massachusetts 02118. It sells cosmetics, skin cream, and hair care products.

A class action lawsuit has been filed by the Leonard Law Office and co-counsel against Free People. The case alleges that Free People violated a Massachusetts credit card privacy law.

Free People -- Prudential Center, Boston

Free People — Prudential Center, Boston

Excerpts from the complaint:

Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of Free People of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts store from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards, recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.

Information About Free People

Free People LLC is a limited liability company, organized under the laws of Delaware, with a principal place of business at 5000 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19112. Defendant Free People of PA LLC is a limited liability company, organized under the laws of Delaware, which merged with Free People LLC in 2005.  Free People is a subdivision of Urban Outfitters. The President of Free People is Margaret Hayne.

Free people one

 

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A class action lawsuit has been filed by the Leonard Law Office and co-counsel against Patagonia.  The case alleges that Patagonia violated a Massachusetts credit card privacy law.

Patagonia

Patagonia — Newbury Street, Boston

Excerpts from the complaint:

Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of Patagonia of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts store from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards , recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.

A recent article from CNNMoney discussed the significant privacy violations that result from the practice of collecting ZIP codes. According to CNNMoney:

[T]he five-digit zip code is one of the key items data brokers use to link a wealth of public records to what you buy. They can figure out whether you’re getting married (or divorced), selling your home, smoke cigarettes, sending a kid off to college or about to have one. Such information is the cornerstone of a multi-billion dollar industry that enables retailers to target consumers with advertising and coupons. Yet, data privacy experts are concerned about the level at which consumers are being tracked without their knowledge — and what would happen if that data got into the wrong hands. Acxiom, one of the biggest data brokers in the business, claims to have a database that holds information — including one’s age, marital status, education level, political leanings, hobbies and income level — on 190 million individuals. Major competitors, like Datalogix and CoreLogic, tout similarly vast databases. In most cases, all that is needed to match the information these data brokers compile with what you buy is your full name — obtained when you swipe a credit card — and a zip code, according to data privacy experts. This allows them to figure out that you are the Sally Smith who lives in Butte, Mont., not the one who lives in Denver, for example. “For the majority of the country, the zip code is going to be the piece of the puzzle that is going to enable a merchant to identify you,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Source “What Your ZIP Code Reveals About You,” April 18, 2013 (available at http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/18/pf/data-privacy/).

Information about Patagonia

Patagonia is a California company founded by Yvon Chouinard. It is best known for its high quality outdoor clothing, and esteemable corporate ethics.

 

Massachusetts State Offices
 
Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108-1518
617-727-8400 (Consumer Hotline)
TTY: 617-727-4765
email: ago@state.ma.us
http://www.mass.gov/ago

Read the rest of this entry »

The Leonard Law Office is representing plaintiffs in a class action against California app company Hangtime. The case is about unsolicited text messages that allegedly violate federal telemarketing and Massachusetts consumer protection law.

Hangtime - California App Company

Hangtime

The Hangtime TCPA Class action complaint (PDF) asserts:

- In a misguided effort to promote its mobile application or “app,” Hangtime engages in an invasive and unlawful form of marketing: the unauthorized transmission of advertising in the form of “text message” calls to the cellular telephones of consumers throughout the nation.

- By effectuating these unauthorized text message calls (“wireless spam”), Hangtime has violated consumers’ statutory rights and has caused consumers actual harm, not only because consumers were subjected to the aggravation that necessarily accompanies wireless spam, but also because consumers frequently have to pay their cell phone service providers for the receipt of such wireless spam.

- In order to redress these injuries, Plaintiff, on behalf of himself and a nationwide class of similarly situated individuals, and a Massachusetts subclass, brings action under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227, et seq. (“47 U.S.C. § 227”) (the “TCPA”), which prohibits unsolicited voice and text calls to cell phones, and the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, M.G.L. c. 93A, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

- Unlike more conventional advertisements, wireless spam invades privacy and can actually cost its recipients money, because cell phone users like Plaintiff must frequently either pay their respective wireless service providers for each text message call they receive or incur a usage allocation deduction to their text plan, regardless of whether or not the message is authorized.

- Over the course of an extended period beginning in at least 2013, Hangtime and its agents directed the mass transmission of wireless spam to the cell phones nationwide of what they hoped were potential customers of Hangtime’s social networking services.

- For instance, on or about December 29, 2013, Plaintiff’s cell phone rang, indicating that a text call was being received.

- The “from” field of the transmission was identified cryptically as “14158153107,” which is a special purpose telephone number known as a long code operated by Hangtime and its agents.  The body of such text message read:

Mikey Leftside shared events with you on Hangtime. http://hangti.me/XiEpF6mLKc

- Hangtime’s and its agents’ use of a long code enabled Hangtime’s mass transmission of wireless spam to a list of cellular telephone numbers.

- Hangtime sent these messages using equipment with the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called using a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers

- By use of these methods, Hangtime sent text messages that were the same or practically the same as the message sent to Plaintiff, referenced in Paragraph 15 above, to numerous cell phones throughout the country.

- These text messages, including the text message sent to Plaintiff did not originate from, nor were they created by, the individuals referenced in the messages (though the messages were intended and made to appear that way).  Rather, the messages sent to Plaintiff and other class members originated from and were created by Hangtime as a promotional device for its service.

What is Securities Fraud?

Securities fraud takes a variety of forms.  All dishonest actions on the part of publicly traded corporations can cause their investors serious financial harm. When the market reacts negatively to news of wrongdoing, share prices decrease, and investors lose money.

Merge Healthcare’s Falsified Contracts and Overstated Figures

On January 8, 2014, MRGE issued a corrective disclosure (PDF) confessing that the company had “falsified the existence or amount of certain customer contracts.” This is the second time Merge Healthcare has had problems with ethics. In 2009, the SEC charged two former senior executives with accounting fraud, in a scandal that caused the stock price to plummet.

ScreenHunter_36 Feb. 23 14.41

“Falsified Bookings”

What does this Mean?

Investors who have suffered financial losses because of the recent Merge Healthcare ethics issues may have claims under The Securities Exchange Act of 1933 (PDF) (also known as the “Truth in Securities Act“).  If you purchased MRGE stock between August 1, 2012 and January 7, 2014 you may be entitled to significant financial compensation. The Leonard Law Office is accepting securities fraud cases. 

Background Information about MRGE

ScreenHunter_36 Feb. 23 18.08

Merge Healthcare Inc – Nasdaq: MRGE

Related Articles

The Corrective Disclosure Press Release

The press release is pasted below in its entirety:

     Merge Revises Previously Announced Subscription Backlog Totals

No Impact on Historical Financial Results eClinical Business Unit Continues Strong Growth

Chicago, IL, 08 Jan 2014

Merge Healthcare Incorporated (NASDAQ: MRGE), a leading provider of clinical systems and innovations that seek to transform healthcare, recently learned through an internal review that a former sales employee in its eClinical business had falsified the existence or amount of certain customer contracts. Because the company did not, and will not, invoice the customers with respect to the falsified contracts or recognize any revenue with respect to those contracts, this issue will not adversely affect any of the company’s previously reported GAAP revenue results for any period. Accordingly, no restatement of any of the company’s prior financial statements is necessary or will be made.

The company is, however, reducing its previously-announced non-GAAP subscription backlog totals for the Merge DNA segment for the quarterly periods ended June 30, 2012 through September 30, 2013, as follows:

(amount in thousands)
June 30, 2012 September 30, 2012 December 31, 2012 March 31, 2013 June 30, 2013 September 30, 2013
Previously Announced DNA Subscription Backlog $22,213 $29,453 $34,917 $40,943 $50,409 $56,370
Falsified Bookings in Quarter $277 $172 $5,360 $2,864 $4,304 $2,174
Cumulative Falsified Bookings $277 $449 $5,809 $8,673 $12,977 $15,151
Revised DNA Subscription Backlog at Quarter End $21,936 $29,004 $29,108 $32,270 $37,432 $41,219

After initially identifying the issue, the company’s senior management conducted a preliminary internal investigation and reported its findings to the Audit Committee of the company’s Board of Directors. The Audit Committee then authorized an independent investigation by outside counsel, Jenner & Block LLP, and Alvarez & Marsal Global Forensic and Dispute Services, LLC, a forensic accounting firm. The independent investigation concluded that the former employee had falsified contracts with an apparent value of approximately $5.8 million and $9.4 million in 2012 and 2013, respectively. These amounts were included in the company’s previously-announced subscription backlog total during those years, but none of the falsified contracts had resulted in the company’s recognition of revenue. The independent investigation did not find any evidence that other company employees had participated in, or were aware of, this improper conduct.

The former employee has acknowledged that contracts in question were not valid and has made an offer of restitution. The company believes that the individual, who resigned in September 2013, falsified these contracts in order to achieve sales quotas and receive additional commissions totaling approximately $250,000. The company has referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois and is considering other appropriate legal action. The Audit Committee’s independent investigation has ended.

For calendar year 2013, and prior to the discovery of this issue, the company had modified its compensation plans for its eClinical sales personnel from a plan that was primarily based on contract signings to one that is driven by customer invoicing and cash collections. The company’s senior management has identified, and its Board of Directors has adopted, other modifications to the company’s internal controls to strengthen its processes for logging customer contracts and calculating commissions for its sales personnel. While the company believes its corrective measures will significantly reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences, there can be no assurances in this regard.

Notwithstanding this issue, eClinical’s annual revenue grew by about 30% in 2013 and is expected to grow by at least another 20% in 2014. No eClinical client projects were impacted by this issue. Clients should not expect any adverse effect on eClinical’s performance under their existing contracts.

About Merge
Merge is a leading provider of clinical systems and innovations that seek to transform healthcare.  Merge’s enterprise and cloud-based solutions for image intensive specialties provide access to any image, anywhere, any time. Merge also provides clinical trials software and other health data and analytics solutions that engage consumers in their personal health. With solutions that are used by providers and consumers and include more than 25 years of innovation, Merge is helping to reduce costs and improve the quality of healthcare worldwide. For more information, visit merge.com.

Cautionary Notice Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
The matters discussed in this press release may include forward-looking statements, which could involve a number of risks and uncertainties including the outcome of the internal investigation and the remedial actions involving the former employee.  When used in this press release, the words “will,” “believes,” “intends,” “anticipates,” “expects” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, such forward-looking statements. Except as expressly required by the federal securities laws, the Company undertakes no obligation to update such factors or to publicly announce the results of any of the forward-looking statements.

 

According to two Harvard Law School professors (see below) Harvard’s initial handling of massive payroll error was misleading and inadequate.

  • Did Havard’s tax error and resulting payroll mistakes violate Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws?
  • Does Harvard owe far more than it claims?

If you were affected by this issue, you are welcome to contact us. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation. The Leonard Law Office is now accepting Massachusetts Wage & Hour Law Violation / Wage Theft cases.

================================================

To: HLS Faculty and Staff
From: Professors Alvin Warren and Daniel Halperin
Date: February 4, 2014
Re: Major Harvard Tax Error

We write in response to requests for our views regarding a letter from the Harvard Benefits Office dated January 21, 2014 concerning Harvard supplemental life insurance. If you received this letter, it is because the University reported too much taxable income for you to the federal and state governments for one or more taxable years beginning in 2009. If you did not receive the letter, you need not read any further.

In our view, the letter misstates the law and is misleading as to both the scope of the problem and the University’s responsibility to make some 11,000 employees whole for a monumental mistake by the central administration. After reviewing the letter, we met with a group of responsible personnel in Harvard’s central administration. The good news is that we think that they understand just how misleading the letter is. Although nothing has been decided, they are also aware of our position that the University must make its faculty and staff whole for excess taxes we paid on more than $20,000,000 of income that we did not receive, but which was erroneously reported by Harvard to the federal and state governments on our W-2 forms.

These are the facts as provided to us by the central administration: Prior to 2009, the University’s pricing of supplemental life insurance resulted in some employees receiving what the IRS regarded as taxable subsidies that had to be reported as income. In 2009, the University changed the pricing of the insurance so that there were no more taxable subsidies. The Harvard administration nonetheless continued to report taxable income to the federal and state governments, as though no change had been made. This taxable income was included on employees’ W-2 forms, so we paid taxes on income that we did not receive. The central administration first became aware of possible overreporting in October 2013. The first communication to the faculty and staff regarding the issue was the January 21, 2014 letter.

The letter misstates the law. It says that “IRS regulations do not allow the University to assist you in filing for a state or federal income tax refund.” There is no such regulation.

The letter does not accurately present the scope of the problem. It says that “For many people, the amount of the over-reported income was less that $200 per year.” That is true, but for some employees, the amount exceeds $10,000. Nowhere is the total scope of the problem frankly presented. We were told in our meeting that more than 11,000 current and former employees are affected, with the total amount of overreported income exceeding $20,000,000. In our judgment, to mention in the letter only those employees for whom the amount involved is less than $200 per year is misleading as to the true extent of the problem.

The letter fails to reveal all of the years for which there is a problem. The letter only discusses 2011-13, but the overreporting also occurred in 2009 and 2010. This fact is obscured by the vague expression in the first paragraph, which states that the problem involves “several years prior to 2014.” The full scope of the years involved is never disclosed. The federal statute of limitations has run for 2009, so no refund can be claimed for that year unless an employee’s tax return is still open due to, for example, an audit. The federal statute of limitations for 2010 runs on April 15, 2014, but the administration does not believe it can provide corrected W-2 forms by then.

Most grievously, the letter fails to accept Harvard’s responsibility to make its employees whole for its monumental error. Although 11,000 Harvard employees were victims of the administration’s error, the only remedy presented in the letter is for each of the victims to file amended tax returns with the state and federal governments. The only “resources” offered in the “Frequently Asked Questions” that accompanied the letter are a couple of links to federal (not state) government tax sites.

In our view, Harvard has a responsibility to make its employees whole for its colossal error. For taxable year 2013 (for which returns are due on April 15, 2014) , the central administration hopes to send us corrected W-2 forms somewhat earlier than the March 21 date mentioned in the letter. As to earlier years, it seems to us that the only viable choices are as follows: (1) For years in which amended returns are precluded by the statue of limitations (2009 and 2010, depending on the circumstances), Harvard should offer to reimburse employees for the excess taxes they paid due to the University’s error. These amounts should be compounded to present value. (2) For years in which amended returns are possible, the University should offer employees either (a) reimbursement of excess taxes paid (again compounded to present value) or (b) free professional preparation of amended tax returns. The latter might be done in easily accessible locations on campus or by reimbursement of professional fees for faculty and staff who preferred to use a different return preparer. Some employees might, of course, prefer not to accept either offer and to prepare their own amended returns.

To do anything less than the steps described in the preceding paragraph would indicate that the central administration does not believe that it has an obligation to take responsibility for its errors. Nothing could be further from the core values of truth and honesty that infuse teaching and research at this University. At our meeting with the central administration, we expressed this view with considerable force.

Finally, if you want to see the amount that was overreported for you, it does not appear on your W-2 form. As indicated at the top of the second page of the “Frequently Asked Questions” that accompanied the January 21 letter, that information can be found in a year-to-date total on your December paycheck for each year.

==================================================================================

February 7, 2014

Dear Colleague:
You received a letter from the Harvard Benefits Office dated January 21 regarding an error in IRS Forms W-2 in which Harvard incorrectly reported imputed income on supplemental life insurance for you and others. I offer my sincere apologies for the error itself and for the failure of the initial letter to communicate effectively, including about the nature and scope of the problem, and Harvard’s proposed response.

I write now to correct inaccuracies in the letter, to inform you of steps Harvard will take to assist affected individuals, and to provide additional information in the interest of greater clarity and transparency that you have every right to expect.

The University began to investigate a possible error in reporting of imputed income in October 2013. The problem resulted from a change in the structure of the supplemental life insurance plan in 2009 which meant that income should no longer have been imputed for the benefit.

Overall, the income incorrectly reported for years 2009 through 2013 was significant, estimated to be in excess of $20M for approximately 11,000 affected former and current University employees, while the effect on individual employee’s taxes varied widely. For example, in 2013, the error resulted in less than $200 of imputed income for approximately 60% of affected employees. However, the annual impact was significantly greater for some over $1,000 of imputed income in 2013 for about 13% of those employees affected last year and over $10,000 of imputed income in 2013 for a small number of individuals.

The initial letter misstated the type of assistance the University is able to provide in rectifying the erroneously imputed income. We had intended the letter to note that the University itself could not apply for a state or federal income tax refund on an employee’s behalf. The letter instead said that the University could not assist employees in filing for a refund. This was not accurate. Indeed, the University can provide assistance and, as described below, is actively considering how best to do so.

The original communication did not include steps Harvard would take to support affected members of the community. That was a mistake and we recognize our obligation to ensure that those affected do not incur any financial losses related to this situation. Specifically:

* For 2009 and 2010 we will make payments to current and former employees for excess taxes paid, plus interest. If taxes are due on the foregoing payments, we will reimburse individuals for taxes owed.

* For 2011 and 2012, affected employees can recover the excess tax payments by filing amended tax returns. We recognize that this represents an inconvenience and are committed to doing all that we can to help. We will reimburse individuals for out-of-pocket tax preparation costs, after taxes, if any, that they incur as a result of filing amended returns. We will offer educational programming on filing an amended return. We are also exploring the feasibility of making available tax preparation services that will provide confidential assistance and that will be independent of the University. For individuals with small refund claims, for whom the cost of filing a claim would exceed the amount to be refunded, we will offer the alternative of a cash payment by Harvard in lieu of the individual’s filing a refund claim. If taxes are due on these payments, we will reimburse individuals for taxes owed. We currently anticipate that corrected Forms W-2 for 2011 and 2012 will be available in the early summer.

* We are ahead of schedule for the issuance of corrected Forms W-2 for 2013 and expect they will be delivered earlier in March than originally anticipated and communicated. To avoid the need to file an amended tax return for 2013, we suggest that you delay your filing until you receive the corrected Form W-2.

Going beyond support for affected individuals, we plan to undertake a review, with the assistance of outside experts, of the tax treatment of our benefits programs to ensure there are no additional deficiencies in our processes and practices.

More details of the University’s mitigation efforts will be sent to you in the coming weeks. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Harvard Benefits at Benefits@harvard.edu.

In closing, please accept my sincere apology. We are working to remedy this situation and to ensure an error like this does not occur again.

Sincerely,

Marilyn Hausammann
Vice President for Human Resources

===========================================

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Havard / Yale Football Game -2013

Harvard / Yale Football Game – 2013

Massachusetts federal judge William G. Young granted preliminary approval on Wednesday February, 12, 2013 to an $875,000 settlement resolving a class action that accused arts-and-crafts retailer Michael’s Stores Inc. of improperly demanding ZIP Codes from its customers during transactions and then sending them junk mail.  See the settlement docs: [PDF]

In this class action, Michael’s stores was sued for allegedly violating M.G.L. c. 93A sec 9 (Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act) and M.G.L. c. 93 sec. 105(a) (Massachusetts Credit Card Privacy Act). This is the seminal case in the area of credit card privacy under Massachusetts law. Class counsel took the case all the way to the SJC. In mid 2013, they won a decision from the Commonwealth’s highest state court declaring that (1) ZIP codes constitute “Personal Identification Information” in the context of M.G.L. c. 93 sec. 105(a); and (2) receipt of unsolicited marketing materials or  junk mail occasioned by an underlying violation of sec. 105(a) is an injury under 93A.

Neiman Marcus has had a data breach comparable to Target’s. Personal identification information and card data from as many as 110 million customers has allegedly been exposed.

If you shopped at Neiman Marcus with a credit or debit card from July 16, 2013 – October 30, 2013, or January 2013 – January 2014, you are welcome to contact us. You may be entitled to financial compensation

According to a notice posted on the Neiman Marcus website (pdf) and (url):

“It appears that the malware actively attempted to collect or “scrape” payment card data from July 16, 2013 to October 30, 2013. During those months, approximately 1,100,000 customer payment cards could have been potentially visible to the malware. To date, Visa, MasterCard and Discover have notified us that approximately 2,400 unique customer payment cards used at Neiman Marcus and Last Call stores were subsequently used fraudulently.”

According to another disclosure (pdf) from Neiman Marcus, the company had another data breach from January 2013 – January 2014.

What does it mean if you have fraudulent charges on your Paypal Account?

It probably means two things:

#1: You opened a “phishing” email.
#2: A keylogger is recording everything you type and capturing your secret login/password information, as well as other private materials, and sending it to all to a wrongdoer.

Phishing

Phishing is a way to send a real-looking email to an unsuspecting victim to fraudulently obtain something of value.  In the words of an actual phisher:

“PayPal’s security is not the best but it’s well secured. The probable reason for the fraudulent charges are phishing mails, that probably installed a Keylogger on his computer and got the Login details from that way. It’s the easiest way, if he doesn’t have a hi-tech antivirus software.”

A keylogger is a program that records each keystroke and sends the information to someone else through the Internet.

Successful phishing attacks depend on a valid-looking email, and a link contained in the email. Below is an example of one such email claiming to provide a death notification:

From: Hubbell Funeral Home <info@assortjapan.com>
Subject: Death notification

Hubbel Funeral Home
Simply Compassionate

We would like to express our deepest sorrow for the untimely death of your beloved
friend and inform you about the life service celebration that will take place at
Hubbell Funeral Home on February 20, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

Please follow this link [malware link removed] to get funeral invitation.
Please be there to honor the memory of your friend with her closest people.

Our best wishes and prayers,
David Parks,
Funeral home assistant

99 North Indian Rocks Road | Belleair Bluffs, Florida 33770
Phone 727-584-7671 | Fax 727-584-1073

Phishing Attack

Email Security

(1) Be suspicious. First of all, a sender’s email address is easy to fake. There are ways to digitally forge information in such a way that an email appears to be from a trusted source – ie. security@citibank.com. So, just because you trust the sender, the message may not really be from a trusted source.

(1) If an email asks you for personal information, NEVER provide it.  Banks and legitimate online businesses such as Ebay, Amazon, and Paypal do not send customers emails asking them for:

  • First and last name
  • Password
  • Driver’s license number
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security number
  • Credit and debit card numbers
  • PIN numbers
  • Bank account numbers

(2) Do not click on links within emails, unless you are 100% sure it is from a real person whom you trust,  i.e a friend emailing you an interesting article from the New York Times. Unfortuntely, you can unknowingly download keylogging software or other malicous programs just by one click on the wrong hyperlink.

(3) Do not open software or attachments sent you to from an untrusted email sender.

Computer & Financial Account Security

It is foolish not to have a high quality anti-virus program that is up to date. AVG Free 2014, which doesn’t cost anything, may be good enough to scan for keyloggers and keep your machine secure.

If you have had fraudulent charges on a credit card, debit card, or Paypal account, you should have your cards inactivated and reissued.

Password Security

The easiest way to compromise an account is by guessing the password. Never use an idiotic password such as “Password.” Frequently change all of your passwords, and do not use the same password for everything. A secure password has these characteristics:

  • Contains no words found in the dictionary
  • Consists of a blend of uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Has at least one number and one symbol
  • Is at least ten characters in length
  • Impossible to guess based on who you are
  • Known only to one person: you
  • Has not been used for your other accounts in the past

Varieties of Phishing Attacks

Phishing emails are infinitely creative.   Scammers will stop at nothing to trick people into clicking on a link contained within an email. The notice below from February 2014, warns of a creative tactic used by criminals:

PUBLIC NOTICE
SCAM EMAILS ABOUT PHONY COURT CASES CARRY COMPUTER VIRUS
The federal judiciary has learned of an email scam, in which emails purporting to come from
federal and state courts are infecting recipients with computer viruses.
According to the Security Operations Center of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the
emails are instructing recipients to report to a hearing on a specified day and time. The emails
also instruct recipients to review an attached document for detailed case information. When the
attachments or links in the email are opened, a malicious program is launched that infects the
recipient’s computer. Several state courts have reported similar schemes, and also are warning
the public about potential viruses.
Unless you are actively involved in a case in federal court and have consented to receive court
notifications electronically, you generally will not be served with court documents electronically.
If you receive an email regarding a federal court case or matter of which you are unaware that is
purported to be from this district court, you should contact the CM/ECF help desk at 866-239-
6233 before opening any attachments or links. You may use the court locator
(http://www.uscourts.gov/court_locator.aspx) to find contact information for other federal courts.

 

DNA tester 23andMe Inc. has been hit with a class action in which the company is accused of falsely advertising its saliva collection kit and personal genome service product as accurately providing health reports on more than 240 genetic medical conditions.

 

23 and me

According to the Complaint:

“This proposed class action alleges that 23andMe, Inc. (“Defendant”) falsely and misleadingly advertises their Saliva Collection Kit/Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) as providing “health reports on 240+ conditions and traits”, “drug response”, “carrier status”, among other things, when there is no analytical or clinical validation for the PGS. In addition, Defendant uses the information it collects from the DNA tests consumers pay to take to generate databases and statistical information that it then markets to other sources and the scientific community in general, even though the test results are meaningless.

3 Despite Defendant’s failure to receive marketing authorization or approval from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), Defendant has slowly increased its list of indications for the PGS, and initiated new marketing campaigns, including television advertisements in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDC Act”). Defendant 23andMe, Inc., a Delaware Corporation, was and is a corporation founded in 2006, headquartered in Mountain View, California, existing under the laws of the State of Delaware and doing business in the State of California and elsewhere throughout the United States of America.”

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS from the 23and Me Class Action:

  • ” PGS is a direct-to-consumer DNA genetic test. After a consumer purchases the PGS for $99.00 plus applicable taxes, Defendant mails to the customer a packet including a saliva depository. The customer spits into the depository, thereby providing his or her DNA sample, and mails the packet back to Defendant. Defendant allegedly runs a DNA test for 240+ conditions and traits, and mails a report to the customer regarding the risks or family history characteristics such as coronary heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, the customer can log-in to Defendant’s website for more features.
  • Defendant Advertises and Markets PGS as a Reliable Health Aid 10 To benefit Defendant’s sales of PGS, Defendant advertises and markets PGS in multiple media forms, including internet, print, and television.
  • A small sample of such advertising and marketing under the “Health” tab of Defendant’s website shows representations regarding the value of the PGS to a customer’s health:
    •  “Learn hundreds of things about your health. Using your DNA information, 23andMe helps you know more about your health so you can take an active role in managing it. With reports on over 240+ health conditions and traits, here are a few of the things you’ll learn about you.”
    • “Plan for the future. Find out if your children are at risk for inherited conditions, so you can plan for the health of your family.”
    • “Living well starts with knowing your DNA.”
    • “Health tools – Document your family health history, track inherited conditions, and share the knowledge.”
    • “Drug response – Arm your doctor with information on how you might respond to certain medications.”
    • “Below are a few examples [diabetes, arthritis, coronary heart disease, breast cancer, plavix, lactose intolerance] where we can help you learn more. And when you know more, you can make better lifestyle choices, look out for common conditions and take steps toward mitigating serious diseases.”(https://www.23andme.com/health/ Accessed 11/26/13)
  • Defendant markets and advertises specific examples of diseases and conditions for which the PGS can aid the consumer. Further, Defendant claims, “Get personalized recommendations. Based on your DNA, we’ll provide specific health recommendations for you.” Defendant offers information on a consumer’s risk regarding such serious diseases as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer. (https://www.23andme.com/health/ Accessed 11/26/13)
  • Defendant describes the PGS service further: “23andMe is a DNA analysis service providing information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA, We use the Illumina HumanOmniExpress-24 format chip…Our chip consists of a fully custom panel of probes for detective single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) selected by our researchers. The selection was made to maximize the number of actionable health and ancestry features available to customers as well as offer flexibility for future research.”
  • Defendant Has Provided No Support for Such Advertisements and Marketing to FDA.
  • Defendant has reaped the profit involved in marketing seemingly useful and reliable PGS health services while simultaneously failing to provide proof of the validity of such marketing claims to FDA in violation of the FDC Act
  • Beginning in July 2009, FDA worked diligently with Defendant to try to help Defendant comply with regulatory requirements regarding safety and effectiveness and to obtain marketing authorization for the PGS device.
  • FDA sent Defendant a “Warning Letter” on November 22, 2013, citing concerns over whether or not these tests work. The FDA cited concern about the public danger involved in false positives and false negatives for such serious health conditions purportedly tested by PGS.
  • The FDA Warning Letter further indicated, among other things, that, ‘To date, 23andMe has failed to provide adequate information to support a determination that the PGS is substantially equivalent to a legally marketed predicate for any of the uses for which you are marketing it; no other submission for the PGS device that you are marketing has been provided under section 510(k) of the [FDC] Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360(k).
  • After more than 14 face-to-face meetings, hundreds of email messages, and dozens of written communications between Defendant and FDA concerning the public health consequences of inaccurate results from the PGS device, FDA has concluded, “…even after these many interactions with 23andMe, we still do not have any assurance that the firm has analytically or clinically validated the PGS for its intended uses…”
  • After FDA cited specific examples of potential dangers to consumers, its letter states, “The risk of serious injury or death is known to be high when patients are either non-complaint or not properly dosed; combined with the risk that a direct-to-consumer test result may be used by a patient to self-manage, serious concerns are raised if test results are not adequately understood by patients or if incorrect test results are reported.”
  • Defendant has marketed and sold PGS to consumers for years without any analytical or clinical data to support the device’s efficacy. Despite lacking data to support their claims, Defendant made material representations to customers.
  • Without clinical data, Defendant continues to make health and efficacy claims about the PGS. Without such claims, consumers would lack incentive to purchase the product. Thus, Defendant has benefitted, and continues to benefit, from its misleading and unfair advertising and marketing.
  • If the data is unknown or cannot be produced by researchers, the marketing claims are hollow and misleading, created without backing and with the aim of drawing customers to purchase the product.
  • In a January 9, 2013 letter, Defendant stated to FDA that it was “completing the additional analytical and clinical validations for the tests that have been submitted” and “planning extensive labeling studies that will take several months to complete.” Thus, a full 5 years after the commencement of marketing the PGS to consumers, Defendant cannot support its marketing claims with scientific validation. In the absence of validation, 5 years of marketing claims were unfair, deceptive, and misleading to the consumers who trusted Defendant with potentially life-altering health matters.
  • Defendant also publishes “research” based on the test results it complies from individual consumers paying to have the PGS test administered, falsely claiming the results provide meaningful statistical data and useful scientific results.
  • Plaintiff alleges that, in committing the wrongful acts alleged herein, Defendant, in concert with its subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or other related entities and their respective employees, planned, participated in and furthered a common scheme to induce members of the public to purchase the PGS by means of misleading, deceptive and unfair representations, and that Defendant participated in the making of such representations in that it disseminated those misrepresentations and/or caused them to be disseminated.”

Unsolicited faxes damage their recipients. A junk fax recipient loses the use of its fax machine, paper, and ink toner. An unsolicited fax wastes the recipient’s valuable time that would have been spent on something else. A junk fax interrupts the recipient’s privacy. Unsolicited faxes prevent fax machines from receiving authorized faxes, prevent their use for authorized outgoing faxes, cause undue wear and tear on the recipients’ fax machines, and require additional labor to attempt to discern the source and purpose of the unsolicited message.

In 1991, Congress enacted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq. (“TCPA”) to regulate the explosive growth of the telemarketing industry. In so doing, Congress recognized that “unrestricted telemarketing . . . can be an intrusive invasion of privacy . . .” See 47 U.S.C. § 227, Congressional Statement of Findings #5. Specifically, in enacting the TCPA, Congress outlawed telemarketing via unsolicited facsimile (“Junk Fax”). See 47 U.S.C. §227(b)(1)(C).

Section 227(b)(1)(C) of the Act makes it “unlawful for any person within the United States. . . to use any telephone facsimile machine, computer, or other device to send, to a telephone facsimile machine, an unsolicited advertisement.” See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(C); see also 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(a)(3).

Under the TCPA, recipients of unsolicited fax advertisements can file suit in federal or state court to collect the greater of $500 or actual damages for each violation, and/or obtain an injunction. See 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(3)(B). If a court determines that the violations were willful or knowing, damages can be tripled. This means that every distinct junk fax sent out could result in damages of $1,500.

Example of a “Junk Fax”:

junk fax from regents capital finance

IF RECEIVE UNWANTED TEXT MESSAGES, ROBOCALLS, OR FAXES FROM A BUSINESS, YOU ARE WELCOME TO CONTACT US. THE LEONARD LAW OFFICE, LLP IS ACCEPTING NEW TCPA CASES. 

According to the FTC, the agency has reached a settlement with the people behind the “Rachel from Card Services” robocalls. The individuals mentioned are Emory L. “Jack” Holley IV and Lisa Miller. Going after the source of these obnoxious robocalls was one the most useful activities of the FTC in 2013. Unfortunately, however, it didn’t work. I received a call from Rachel on December 16, 2013.

Rachel

FTC’s announcement:

Final Six Defendants in ‘Rachel Robocall’ Scheme Settle FTC Charges - They Will Be Permanently Banned from All Telemarketing and Debt Relief Services - The final six of 10 defendants named in an alleged “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scam have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers with bogus claims that they would lower their credit card interest rates.The FTC settlement bans Emory L. “Jack” Holley IV, Lisa Miller, and the remaining corporate defendants from telemarketing and marketing debt relief services or assisting others in such conduct, prohibits them from misrepresenting any products or services, and imposes a partially suspended $11.9 million judgment. The FTC filed its complaint in this matter in October 2012, alleging that the defendants violated Section 5 of the FTC Act and the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by charging illegal up-front fees during telemarketing calls in which they made false promises to reduce the interest rate on consumers’ credit cards and save them thousands of dollars.”

Questions:

  1. How did they get away with it for so long?
  2. Will they really stop?

Case Documents:

Update:

Rachel from Card Services is back at it as of December 16, 2013!

Rachel

Call from Rachel from Card Services (December 16, 2013)

On November 5, 2013, the Leonard Law Office filed a class action lawsuit against MAC Cosmetics, alleging violations of Massachusetts credit card privacy and consumer protection laws.

MAC Cosmetics - Newbury St.

MAC Cosmetics – Newbury Street

If you have information about MAC’s business practices related to credit card transactions, or believe you were affected by conduct that is the basis of this case (by MAC or any other Massachusetts retailer) you are welcome to contact us.

Excerpts of the class action complaint are pasted below:

“Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of MAC of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts stores from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards, recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.”  This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.

On November 5, 2013, the Leonard Law Office and co-counsel filed a class action lawsuit against Kiehl’s Since 1851, alleging violations of Massachusetts credit card privacy and consumer protection laws.

Keihl's Newbury St. Boston MA

Kiehl’s – Newbury Street

If you have information about Kiehl’s business practices related to credit card transactions, or believe you were affected by the conduct that is the basis of this case (by Kiehl’s or any other Massachusetts retailer) you are welcome to contact us. 

Excerpts of the class action complaint:

“Plaintiff brings this action for redress of the unlawful practice of Kiehl’s of collecting ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts stores from customers who make purchases with Credit Cards, recording that information as part of the Credit Card transaction, and then using that information for its own marketing and promotional purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.”  This practice, which has affected Plaintiff and members of the Class, as described and defined herein, is an invasion of privacy and violates G. L. c. 93 § 105(a) and G. L. c. 93A, § 2.

Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and the Class, seeks damages for invasion of privacy and violation of c. 93, § 105(a) and accordingly, c. 93A, § 2, disgorgement of the profits or other benefits received by Kiehl’s as a result of the practices described herein in violation of c. 93, § 105(a) and/or statutory damages under c. 93A, § 9(3).  Plaintiff brings this action as a class action on behalf of herself and a class comprised of all persons whose ZIP codes were collected and recorded at any Kiehl’s retail location in Massachusetts while making Credit Card purchases during the period from November 5, 2009 through the present (the “Class Period”).

 

Does Hydroxycitric acid (“HCA”) work as a weight loss agent? If you have purchased a weight loss product containing Hydrocitric acid (HCA) or Garcinia Cambogia, and found that the results did not live up to product claims, you are welcome to contact us.

Top Garcinia (HCA) supplement brands

  1. Absolute Garcinia Cambogia
  2. Healthy Clip Pure Garcinia Rapid
  3. Pure Health Garcinia Cambogia
  4. Bio Nutrition Garcinia Cambogia
  5. Labrada Nutrition Garcinia Cambogia
  6. Puritan’s Pride Super Citrimax
  7. Futurebiotics Garcinia Cambogia
  8. Molecular Research Labs Pure Garcinia Cambogia
  9. Vitamin Shoppe Garcinia Cambogia Extract
  10. Garcinia Cambogia Select
  11. Nature’s Plus Citrimax
  12. Vitamin World Super Citrimax
  13. Genesis Today Garcinia Cambogia
  14. Nutritional Sciences Garcinia Lean

Warning: Six HCA products on this list have been been found to contain 16% to 81% of the HCA claimed on the label. If you have purchased any of these products, and believe you were misled, you are welcome to contact us. 

Massachusetts has several laws dealing with unwanted, harassing contact. Criminal charges for Stalking, under M.G.L. ch. 265 s. 43 can result in a term in state prison of up to 5 years or a fine of up to $1,000. Criminal Harassment under M.G.L. ch. 43A carries a sentence of up to 2 ½ years in prison. Some forms of electronic communication, i.e. harassing email, text messaging, or Facebook messages can result in a fine of $500 or imprisonment for not more than 3 months, under the “Annoying telephone calls or electronic communication law,” codified at M.G.L. ch 269 s. 14A. It is possible to to obtain a Harassment Prevention Order against a perpetrator under M.G.L. ch 258E.

Stalking

“Stalking”

Under Investigation: National Union Fire Insurance Company / AIG

American International Group, Inc. ("AIG")

American International Group, Inc. (“AIG”)

We are investigating the National Union Fire Insurance Company (“NUFIC”) and American International Group, Inc. (“AIG“) for a potential class action lawsuit concerning (1) allegations of billing issues / assessment of automatic bank charges not agreed to by consumers (2) calls that may have been placed to cell phones without prior authorization. If you have any information that could be helpful, you are welcome to contact us.

Complaints about National Union Fire Insurance Company

Some consumers have complained about fees imposed by this company in a way they perceived as unfair and deceptive. Others have complained about calls they have received from this company.

Complaintsboard.com

Rippoff Report (37 Complaints)

Information about National Union Fire Insurance Company and AIG

The National Union Fire Insurance Company sells and provides insurance products to consumers and businesses. It operates as a subsidiary of American International Group, Inc. (“AIG“) (formerly Chartis U.S., Inc.). The CEO of NUFIC is Mr. John Q. Doyle.  NUFIC’s primary place of business is located at 70 Pine St., New York, NY 10270. Their phone number is (212) 770-7000.  AIG is led by Mr. Robert H. Benmosche, whose yearly compensation is $10,573,900.  According to documents filed with the SEC, “In March 2012, the National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, Pa. (NUFI), an AIG Property Casualty company, became a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Pittsburgh.”

AIG

American International Group, Inc.

Issue:

Do validly licensed foreign college students in the Commonwealth temporarily for school have an obligation to obtain Massachusetts Drivers Licenses? If so, what are the time frames that govern these requirements? If they remain in Massachusetts for over a year without leaving the U.S., does that change things?

Example A: Alfred, who is a citizen of Spain, has a valid driver’s license from Spain. He is admitted to Boston College and purchases a car upon arrival. Alfred registers the car in the Commonwealth. Must he obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license immediately? Can he drive here on his Spanish license temporarily? If so, how long does he have before the Spanish license becomes invalid here?

Example B: Assume same facts as above, except that Alfred returns home each summer for vacation and then returns in the fall. How does leaving and re-entering the country affect this situation?

Example C: Upon graduation, Alfred remains in Spain through the summer, then comes back to Massachusetts for a job. He does not obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license. Does the Commonwealth honor his Spanish driver’s license indefinitely? At what point must he obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license?

Answer:

It depends.

First, it is necessary to determine whether the foreign driver’s license in question is honored in the United States at all.  That depends on whether the license was issued by a country which is one of the Parties to the 1949 Road Traffic Convention and the 1943 Inter-American Automotive Traffic Convention.

Explanation of the 1949 Road Traffic Convention and its application:

  • According the 1949 Road Traffic Convention, a non-resident foreign student from one of the countries listed therein who is at least 18 years of age and is validly licensed in his/her home country can drive a passenger type of vehicle authorized by the license for up to one (1) year in the U.S. on the valid foreign license.
  • If he/she is still here at the end of the 12-month year, they lose the right to operate a motor vehicle on their foreign license in the U.S.
  • If the student goes home at the end of the academic year and returns the following academic year (leaves in May-June and returns in September) then, a new one (1) calendar year period is established on return in September.
Driver's license from Brazil, as issued in the...

Brazilian Driver’s License
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Companies often violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when screening applicants.

Generally, there are five very important requirements that employers must follow when seeking an investigative consumer background report  on employees or applicants.

Employers must:

  • Make a clear and accurate written disclosure to the employee/applicant of its intent to obtain the investigative consumer report;
  • Obtain express authorization from the employee/applicant to obtain the investigative consumer report;
  • Give the employee/applicant a pre-adverse action notice if the employer plans to take an adverse action against the employee/applicant based on the information contained in the investigative consumer report;
  • Provide the employee/applicant with an adverse action notice after taking the adverse action;
  • Provide an updated “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” to employees/applicants when an employer provides the pre-adverse action notice.

If you have applied for a job, and the prospective employer failed to meet any of the above requirements, you are invited to contact us.

Federal law provides for stiff monetary penalties against FCRA violators.

Some consumers in Massachusetts have complained about making software purchases at Microcenter, and then finding they cannot return the software at all because the box has been opened.  If you have purchased software or games from Micro Center and were refused an opportunity to return the item, you are invited to contact us.

Micro Center - Cambridge MA

Micro Center – Cambridge MA

Refund, Return, and Cancellation Policies  & Massachusetts Law 

Below is a direct quote from the MA Attorney General’s website:

“Massachusetts law requires merchants to disclose their refund, return, and cancellation policies prior to the consummation of a transaction. A seller can have any type of return policy it wants – “all sales final,” “merchandise credit only,” “full cash refunds within 30 days,” and so on. A seller’s refund, return, or cancellation policy must be disclosed to the buyer clearly and conspicuously before the transaction is completed. Usually, this is done by means of a sign at the point of purchase. If a return policy is only listed on the sales receipt, that is not considered clear and conspicuous prior disclosure, as you only get a receipt after the sale is completed.

You may return goods within a reasonable period of time if no return policy was disclosed. Restrictions in return policies do not apply to defective goods – goods which cannot be used as intended, such as the toaster that will not toast or a television that does not get a picture. The store is required to give you a choice of a refund, repair or replacement.

A seller cannot misrepresent its refund, return, or cancellation policy, or fail to honor any promises about it. Specially-ordered merchandise may have additional restrictions.”

Are Micro Center’s Return Policies Deceptive, Unfair, and Unlawful?

Below is an actual Micro Center receipt that discloses a special policy regarding software purchases. Since it is on the bottom of the receipt, this disclosure is obviously made post-transaction.

Micro Center receipt

Micro Center receipt

Zooming in to the fine print on the sales receipt:

Microcenter - Receipt (return policy) (2)

Can Micro Center customers return software or not?  Why does Micro Center’s posted return policy even use the phrase “If you need to return software”?

"If you need to return software"

“If you need to return software”

Micro Center’s Return Policy

Mirco Center Return Policy

Micro Center Return Policy

Micro Center’s return policy is posted on the back wall near the service desk area at the Cambridge Store. It is also in the Micro Center website.  The policy is found at: http://www.microcenter.com/site/customer-support/return-policy.aspx and backed up as a .PDF on this site’s servers: Microcenter return policy.

Micro Center Return Policy

“New merchandise may be exchanged or returned for refund with your original packing slip subject to the conditions listed below. Micro Center® reserves the right to decline any return or exchange where the product is not in “like-new” condition. “Like-new” means the complete product in the original carton with all equipment, packaging, warranties, manuals and accessories. Returns / exchanges require an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) Number, which is valid for 10 days. To obtain an RMA Number, contact Customer Service. Shipping charges incurred in connection with the exchange or return of new merchandise are non-refundable.

We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell with a full refund — and you won’t even need a receipt.* We want you to be satisfied with your Micro Center purchase. However, if you need help or need to return an item, we’re here for you!

If an item you have purchased from us is not working as expected, please visit one of our in-store Knowledge Experts for free help, where they can solve your problem or even exchange the item for a product that better suits your needs.
If you need to return an item, simply bring it back to any Micro Center store for a full refund or exchange. *If you are a Micro Center Insider or if you have provided us with validated contact information (name, address, email address), you won’t even need your receipt.

Desktop / notebook computers, tablets, processors, motherboards, digital cameras, camcorders and projectors, and CD/DVD duplicators may be returned within 15 days of purchase. All other products may be returned within 30 days of purchase. Merchandise must be in new condition, with original carton / UPC, and all packaging / accessories / materials. If you need to return software, a game or a movie, remember that you may not retain any copies — it’s not legal, and it’s not nice (emphasis added).

Wireless Phones & Devices
Wireless phones and devices may be returned within 14 days of purchase. When returning a wireless phone or device with a plan, you are responsible for ensuring that your service is cancelled with the carrier. If you don’t cancel your service, you may incur additional charges from your carrier. All carrier charges are your responsibility.

Refunds will take up to 14 business days to process from the date that Micro Center receives the merchandise, and will be credited to the credit card or debit card account used for the original purchase.

PLEASE SAVE YOUR PACKING SLIP

Please note that we are not responsible for expenses, fees or other costs incurred by our Customers as a result of defective or incompatible products.

For further information on how to return merchandise online, click on the following link: How to Return an item to Micro Center Online. Merchandise is deemed returned online on the date that an RMA is obtained provided that Micro Center receives the merchandise within 10 days of the issuance of the RMA. Merchandise received after the expiration of 10 days from the date of issuance of the RMA is deemed to be returned online on the date that Micro Center receives the merchandise, and Micro Center may exercise the rights and remedies set forth in the Terms of Sale including, but not limited to, the right to refuse to accept delivery of the merchandise and to charge the customer the retail price of the merchandise plus a handling charge. You may also return or exchange new merchandise at your local Micro Center store in accordance with the return policy of that store.”

About Microcenter

According to Bloomberg, Micro Center is a privately held company with a primary place of business at 4119 Leap Road, Hilliard, OH 43026. The compay was founded in 1979. The primary phone number is (614) 850-3000. Website: www.microcenter.com.

Micro Center Locations

California
 Orange County/Tustin
Colorado
 Denver/Denver Tech Center
Georgia
 Greater Atlanta/Duluth
 Greater Atlanta/Marietta
Illinois
 Chicagoland/Central
 Chicagoland/Westmont
Kansas
 Kansas City/Overland Park
Massachusetts
 Boston/Cambridge
Maryland
 Beltway/Rockville 
 Baltimore/Towson
Michigan
 Detroit/Madison Heights
Minnesota
 Twin Cities/St. Louis Park
Missouri
 St. Louis/Brentwood
New Jersey
 North Jersey/Paterson
New York
 Long Island/Westbury
 Westchester County/Yonkers
Ohio
 Central Ohio/Columbus
 Northeast Ohio/Mayfield Hts.
 Cincinnati/Sharonville
Pennsylvania
 Philadelphia/St. Davids
Texas
 Houston/West Loop
 Dallas Metroplex/Richardson
Virginia
 Northern Virginia/Fairfax

Pissed Consumer (67 Complaints)

Brooks Brothers Logo

Massachusetts law prohibits businesses from requesting and recording a customer’s personal identification when accepting payment by credit card.  Leonard Law Office, LLP and Bailey & Glasser, LLP are representing Massachusetts consumers in a privacy class action against Brooks Brothers, filed in August, 2013.

If you have received junk mailing from Brooks Brothers after using a credit/debit card at a retail location and providing Brooks Brothers with your zip code or home address, you are invited to contact us.

Brooks Brothers Newbury St

Brooks Brothers – Newbury St.

The Class Action Complaint alleges:

  • Brooks Brothers requests customers’ zip codes when they make a purchase using a credit card.
  • Brooks Brothers has a policy of automatically requesting a customer’s zip code in all credit or debit card transactions, and, if provided, recording the zip code electronically in connection with the transaction.
  • Brooks Brothers has a policy of using its customers’ zip codes, and information obtained from third party databases to send marketing materials to customers.
  • Brooks Brothers has a policy of sharing this information with other Brooks Brothers brands.
  • Brooks Brothers’ policies harm Massachusetts consumers by subjecting them to unwanted junk mail, and other marketing without their consent, and using customers’ personal information without their consent for its own business purposes. Read the rest of this entry »

The Leonard Law Office, LLP is representing clients regarding credit card privacy claims against Urban Outfitters. This class action, alleging violations of Massachusetts privacy and consumer protection laws, was filed on August 15, 2013. If you have received “junk mail” from Urban Outfitters, you are welcome to contact us.

Urban Outfitters - Massachusetts Ave.

Urban Outfitters – Massachusetts Ave.

Information about the class action lawsuit against Urban Outfitters

The complaint alleges that Urban Outfitters collected ZIP codes at checkout at its Massachusetts stores from customers who made purchases with credit cards, recorded that information as part of credit card transactions, and then used that information for marketing purposes, including to send unsolicited marketing and promotional materials, or “junk mail.” The complaint further alleges that: Read the rest of this entry »

There is a dramatic controversy unfolding about claims made by pizza chain retailer Papa John’s.

The box claims:

“Better pizza. Better ingredients.” The CEO’s statement on the box says: “When I founded Papa John’s in 1984, my mission was to build a better pizza,” says “Papa” John Schnatter. “I went the extra mile to ensure we used the highest quality ingredients available – like fresh, never frozen original dough, all-natural sauce, veggies sliced fresh daily and 100 percent real beef and pork. We think you’ll taste the difference.”

Papa John's Pizza Box

Papa John’s Pizza Box

A recent article, entitled What Papa John’s Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its Read the rest of this entry »

Update (3/31/14)

"If you notice water intrusion..."

“If you notice any water intrusion…”

 

Update (2/20/14)

Below is an email from Equity Residential to residents of Walden Park:

From: Walden Park <waldenpark@eqr.com>
Date: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Subject: Heat System Shut Down
To: waldenpark@eqr.com

Dear Residents, 

We want to inform you that we had to temporarily shut off the heat in the 225 building due to an emergency situation. We currently have plumbers onsite and are working on the issue. We hope to have it restored around 5PM this afternoon. We will keep you informed throughout the day. 

The office staff if offering pizza and drinks down in the Community Room around 1PM. Please come down and help yourself to lunch! We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. 

Please contact the leasing office with any other questions or concerns you may have. Thank you again for your understanding and patience. 

Walden Park 
(617) 868-1151 
my.equityapartments.com

*     *     *     *

Update (2/15/14)

On February 12, 2014, a Massachusetts Federal Judge issued an eighteen page opinion (PDF) remanding (sending back) this case to state court, summarizing: “[b]ecause Equity ‘has not demonstrated a reasonable probability that the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million,’ the case must be remanded. ” We continue to receive complaints from tenants about heat and hot water problems at this apartment complex.

*     *     *     *

Original Post (4/15/13)

Equity Residential now faces its sixth class action lawsuit in Massachusetts since 2012. This is believed to set the record for the most class action lawsuits against one company in any one year period in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Leonard Law Office, and the Law Offices of Joshua N. Garick P.C. filed suit against Equity Residential on behalf of tenants of the Walden Park Apartments in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Leonard Law Office is representing Massachusetts consumers in two other class actions against Equity Residential.

If you reside at the Walden Park Apartments, you are welcome to contact us about heating issues such as lack of hot water or inadequate heat in your apartment.  

THE SUIT SEEKS $3M IN DAMAGES FOR TENANTS

Case Documents:

1. Class Action Complaint (PDF).

220-225 Walden St. (Walden Park Apartments)

220-225 Walden St. (Walden Park Apartments)

The complaint alleges: “On November 4, 2011, Equity acquired Walden Park, which includes two large apartment buildings located at 205 and 225 Walden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Walden Park has approximately 250 apartment units. When Equity acquired Walden Park, the heating and hot water systems were fully operable and in good working order. The plaintiffs entered into a written lease agreement with Walden Park’s previous owner, the Dolben Company, to rent the apartment located at 225 Walden Park, Cambridge, MA. When the Dolben Company owned Walden Park, the plaintiffs had no issues with the heat or hot water system. After Equity acquired Walden Park, issues with Equity-provided utilities, including heat and hot water, began. Starting in April of 2012, and continuing for well over a year thereafter until the present date, the plaintiffs and the Class experienced significant deficiencies and outages with the heat and hot water, including, without limitation, issues on the following dates:

May 8, 2012
May 12,2012
May 16,2012
June 27, 2012
August 23, 2012
October 20, 2012
October 21,2012
October 23, 2012
November 1, 2012
November 3, 2012
November 6, 2012
November 7, 2012
November 16, 2012
November 17, 2012
November 19,2012
March 28, 2013
April 3,2013
April 10, 2013
April 17, 2013
April 18, 2013
April23, 2013
June 6, 2013
June 25, 2013
August 15, 2013

These outages were systemic, and affected all Walden Park units. Over the course of this year, Equity exhibited no urgency in resolving these issues and provided misleading and contradictory reasons for shutting off the utilities. These reasons included, among other stated reasons, conversion from oil to natural gas, a water conservation project, a heating and cooling project, fuel supply/consumption issues, operator error, and automatic shutdowns. The problem was so egregious that the Cambridge Board of Health, which received numerous reports from Walden Park residents, cited Equity for violations of the State Sanitary Code, and deemed the violations to materially impair the health, safety or well-being of the Walden Park’s residents. On numerous occasions, the plaintiffs, (as well as other Walden Park residents) complained to Equity’s staff including complaints by telephone, e-mail and in person. These complaints were not resolved, forcing the plaintiffs to pursue formal litigation against Equity.” The Complaint further alleges that Equity Residential Equity backed out of a settlement deal reached earlier this month between Equity’s lawyers, and attorneys representing tenants.

Equity Residential & Cambridge Inspectional Services Division (ISD) Violations

Violation

Violation – “Deemed to Endgr. or Impair Health of Safety”

Equity Residential Walden St. Apartments, Cambridge, MA

Equity Residential Walden St. Apartments, Cambridge, MA

Under Investigation: LexisNexis

Has LexisNexis robocalled your cell phone? Are you a lawyer (or nonlawyer) and they won’t stop calling your cell?

Complaints about LexisNexis Sales Calls

Whocallsme.com:

Example:
Received two calls from this number (585-200-5316) on my cell phone at 7:35 this morning while I was still in bed and the phone was on my nightstand. No message left. If this is Nexis-Lexis calling, I can assure them my law firm will no longer be doing business with them as well. BTW, if you get telemarketing calls on your cell phone, just assign the calling number a silent ring tone – problem solved.”

Protein Powders — Separating Fact from Fiction

ProLabs Advanced Essential Whey

ProLab Advanced Essential Whey

A recent study found that some popular protein powders had serious deficiencies.

  • less protein than claimed on packaging
  • more carbs than claimed on packaging
  • undisclosed Lead

Many athletes spend money on protein powders looking for increases in lean muscle mass and to improve their overall fitness and health.  Thinking they are getting a certain amount of protein, come athletes and body builders plan workouts and food intake around  what they think is in a particular protein supplement. If you have information or complaints about protein powders, please contact us.

According to a ConsumerLab.com study published June 11, 2013, “31% of Protein Powders and DrinksFlunk Tests of Quality.”

A few of the study’s conclusions:

If you have purchased ProLabs protein products, you may have been misled.

The following protein prouducts were tested (problems were found with 5)

  1. Atkins Day Break
  2. Body Fortress Whey Isolate
  3. Dymatize Nutrition Elite Casein
  4. EAS 100% Whey Protein
  5. Endurox R4
  6. Genisoy Soy Protein Shake
  7. GNC AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60
  8. GNC Pro Performance 100% Whey Protein
  9. GNC Total Lean – Lean Shake 25
  10. GNC Total Lean – Lean Shake
  11. Jay Robb Whey Protein
  12. Marked 100% Whey Protein Complex Gourmet
  13. Marked Mass Gainer Gourmet
  14. Metagenics UltraMeal Rice
  15. MET-RX Engineered Nutrition Meal Replacement
  16. Muscletech Nitro Tech
  17. Nature’s Bounty Optimal Solutions Complete Protein Vitamin
  18. Nature’s Plus Spiru-Tein
  19. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Egg
  20. Prolab Advanced Essential Whey
  21. Pure Protein Shake
  22. Shakeology Greenberry
  23. Six Star Pro Nutrition Whey Protein Plus
  24. Slim Fast 3-2-1 Plan Shake Mix
  25. Solgar Whey To Go The Biggest Loser Protein Powder
  26. Twinlab Whey Fuel Triple Thick

Some consumers have complained that efax makes it difficult to cancel after signing up for the efax free trial, and have been billed for monthly efax service, despite cancelling, or attempting to cancel. If you have information or complaints to share about efax, please contact us.

ScreenHunter_12 Jul. 17 17.48

efax

Questions About Efax

Does efax intentionally make it difficult to cancel their service? Does efax continue to charge consumers and small businesses even though they have requested that the service and billing be discontinued?  Is the efax free trial essentially a scam that results in overbilling or bogus charges to credit cards?

efax free trial

efax free trial

Why is it so Hard to Cancel an efax Free 30 Day Trial?

Failed Efax Cancellation Attempt

Failed Efax Cancellation Attempt

Complaints About efax

The Internet is littered with complaints about efax billing practices:

Ripoffreport (92 complaints)

Read the rest of this entry »

INVESTIGATION CLOSED – PLEASE REFER COMPLAINTS TO:

Ocwen is a mortgage servicing company headquartered in Florida.  A “mortgage servicer” is a debt collector by another name. Ocwen’s phone number is (561) 682-8000. Ocwen (Ocwen Financial Corporation) is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol OCN.

Ocwen

Complaints about Ocwen

Complaints at Consumeraffairs.com (408 complaints)

Complaints at RipoffReport.com (2,026 complaints)

Complaints at Complaints.com (45 complaints)

Complaints at Complaintsboard.com (682)

Questions about DermaSilk — False Advertising?

Many skin creams and serums make anti-aging and anti-wrinkle claims, but few are as aggressive as the claims made by the DermSilk line of products.

Question:

Does using DermaSilk products result in any of the results listed below?

-  “…Age Erasing” effects”

-  “Reverses the effects of aging while you sleep”

-  “Reduces the appearance of wrinkles, crow’s feet, smile lines, dull skin.”

- “Turn back the clock on aging”

-  “…age reversing effects”

-  “…age reversing complex”

-  “…delivers a regenerating complex designed to reverse the effects of aging while you sleep.”

-  “…diminishing the appearance of skin damage, and restoring a youthful appearance.”

-  “…reduces the appearance of existing facial wrinkles”

-  “…relaxes ‘crease memory’ and offers long-term relief from visible laugh lines and crow’s feet.”

-  “multi-action age-reversers”

(DermaSilk Night Repairing Face Lift “Age-Erasing Skin Repair”)

DermaSilk night face lift

DermaSilk Night Repairing Face Lift “Age-Erasing Skin Repair”

The DermaSilk Anti Aging Product Line:


1 Minute Collagen Lift
5 Minute Beauty Peel
1 Minute Wrinkle Erase Pen
Night Repairing Face Lift
Skin Perfect
Flawless
5 Minute Face Lift
90 Second Eye Lift
Miracle Cream

Information about DermaSilk

DermaSilk is a product of Biotech International Corporation in Glastonbury Connecticut.  According to records held by the Connecticut Secretary of State [PDF], Biotech International Corporation was incorporated under the laws of Connecticut in 1994. Biotech’s principal place of business is 65 Kreiger Lane, Glastonbury, CT, 06033, and is led by Gregory J. Kelly, President and C.E.O. The company’s customer service number is (800) 886-9052, website: http://www.dermasilk.org.

According to the website,

  • “Biotech Corporation understands very well how both women and men feel about this change in their skin. For over fifteen years, we have been dedicated to anti-aging research in the field of cosmetics. The Biotech Corporation is a cutting edge cosmetics company. With our development of DermaSilk® Anti-Wrinkle we believe we have finally unlocked the secret to overcoming the natural signs of aging by reducing the appearance of aging skin. With DermaSilk we can all face the future with confidence and grace.”
  • “DISCLAIMER: DermaSilk is intended solely for use as an anti-aging cosmetic; DermaSilk is not intended as a substitute for cosmetic or medical procedures.”

Update (1/27/14)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 New Court documents:

  • 29 Prime’s Motion to Dismiss (pdf)
  • Affidavit of Russell Wallace (pdf)

*     *     *

On November 6, 2013, Leonard Law Office LLP, Pastor Law Office LLP, Sweetnam LLC, and Milberg LLP filed a class action lawsuit against California search engine optimization company 29 Prime for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The TCPA is a federal law that generally forbids telemarketing calls to cell phones.

29 Prime

29 Prime, Inc.

A Summons [PDF here] was filed on November 18, 2013. 29 Prime has until December 4, 2013 to file an Answer to the Complaint. The Class Action Complaint [PDF here] alleges:

“Plaintiff brings this action for damages, and other legal and equitable remedies, resulting from the actions of Defendant in negligently, knowingly, and/or willfully placing calls to Plaintiff’s cellular telephone using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) (i.e., “robocalls”) without his prior express consent in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 et seq. (“TCPA”).

Plaintiff is the primary user of the cellular telephone to which Defendant placed calls using an ATDS without his express consent and is a member of the class defined herein.

 Defendant, 29 Prime, is a corporation organized under the laws of Nevada with its principal place of business at 9701 Jeronimo Road., Irvine, California, 92618. The nature of 29 Prime’s business is to place calls to telephones throughout the United States to solicit unsuspecting customers for search engine optimization services, making claims about their ability to improve Google rankings. Defendant has in the past and continues to operate under unincorporated alter egos with similar websites, such as “Reliable Places.” The company was founded in 2010 by Russell Wallace and Tony Redman.  The Defendant placed robocalls to Plaintiff and other class members in violation of the TCPA, as alleged herein.”  More Excerpts from the class action complaint are pasted at below.

If you have information about 29 Prime’s business practices, or have been affected by telemarketing to your cell phone, you are welcome to contact us

Information about 29 Prime

29 Prime is a web site design and search engine optimization company. This is an industry whose validity and efficacy has been questioned.  29 Prime is apparently one of the most successful SEO companies. “In 2012, 29 Prime, Inc. placed 36 on Inc. Magazine‘s Inc. 5000 list, which ranks the fastest-growing companies in the country based on revenue growth. According to the list, the organization ranked sixth among the top 100 advertising and marketing companies in the United States, seventh among all companies in California, including fourth in Los Angeles and second in Orange County.”

Inc. Magazine’s online profile of the company describes 29 Prime as a company which “specializes in increasing small and midsize local businesses’ visibility on the Internet. The company guarantees front page placement on Google as well as placement on Yahoo and Bing, and also offers video SEO, coupons, and Facebook and Twitter strategies.”  The article reported 2011 income of 6.4MM.

In October, 2012, the Orange County Business Journal [PDF] ranked 29 Prime as number one on the list of fastest growing private companies, with 2012 revenues of 8.7 MM, located at  9701 Jeronimo Road, third floor, Irvine CA 92618-2020.

Is 29 Prime’s Autodialler Responsible for the Company’s Explosive Growth?

"the dialer calls out"

“the dialer calls out”

29 Prime CEO Russell Wallace claims: “Our goal is to help business owners that aren’t Web savvy to get online, build their reputation and grow their business.”
Russell Wallace, CEO
29 Prime, Inc.
2967 Michelson Dr Ste G467
Irvine, CA 92612

According to his Linkedin profile, Russell Wallace, 31, is “Co-Founder and CEO of 29 Prime, Inc.,” with “more than 10 years’ experience directing as many as 300 employees in companies with revenues in excess of $30 million.”

Russell Wallace and Tony Redman founded the company in 2010.

Read the rest of this entry »

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Are acting and modeling websites taking unfair advantage of people?

For example, is the company called “Explore Talent” (www.exploretalent.com) deserving of the litany of complaints below?

Complaints about Explore Talent:

There are 74 Complaints about Explore Talent at RipoffReport.com: http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Explore-Talent.aspx

  • “…such a headache as Explore Talent, just don’t bother signing up for the free account, and definitely DO NOT give Explore Talent ANY MONEY! You will regret it later on when they continue to charge you credit card even after you thought you canceled you account… http://www.ripoffreport.com/modeling-talent-agencies/explore-talent/explore-talent-an-obvious-scam-w3bbc.htm
  • “They are a scam. They post unpaid (low paid), outdated or phony castings. Every now and then there is a legit casting but they’ve more than likely stole it froanother website. So that is what your monthly fee goes for.” http://www.modelmayhem.com/po.php?thread_id=30397 Read the rest of this entry »

There are a number of Massachusetts statutes governing the use and misuse of credit cards.  Most address criminal conduct, and unfair business practices. Some define the term “credit card.”  They were all enacted before debit/credit cards issued by banks became prevalent.  Case law indicates that these debit card amounts to the functional equivalent of a credit card.  This is important, because the Massachusetts credit card privacy law (G.L. c. 93, § 105) should also apply to debit cards.

CIVIL

G.L. c. 93 § 104 (definitions for § 105 Credit cards; checks; personal identification information)

  • “Credit Card”, any instrument or device, whether known as a credit card, credit plate, or by any other name, issued with or without fee by an issuer for the use of the card holder in obtaining money, goods, services, or anything else of value on credit. Credit card shall not include a check guarantee card.

G.L. c. 140D §1 (Consumer Credit Cost Disclsoure; definitions)

  • “Credit”, the right granted by a creditor to a debtor to defer payment of debt or to incur debt and defer its payment.
  • “Credit card”, any card, plate, coupon book, or other credit device existing for the purpose of obtaining money, property, labor, or services on credit.

CRIMINAL

G.L. c. 266 § 37A (Misuse of credit cards; definitions)

  • “Credit card”, any instrument or device, whether known as a credit card, credit plate, or by any other name, issued with or without fee by an issuer for the use of the cardholder in obtaining money, goods, services or anything else of value on credit.

G.L. c. 266 § 37C (Fraudulent use of credit cards to obtain money, goods or services; false embossment of credit cards, multiple possession, presumption; arrest)

G.L. c. 140D § 27  (Unauthorized use of credit cards)

CASE LAW

  • “a debit card fits within the ambit of a “credit card” as defined for purposes of G.L. c. 266, § 37C.  COMMONWEALTH v. RYAN, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 179, 183-186) (2011) .

*               *               *

Fair Debt Collection

The Massachusetts Attorney General‘s Debt Collection Regulations, 940 C.M.R. 7.00, prohibit many unfair debt collection practices by creditors, and regulations of the Massachusetts Division of Banks, 209 CMR 18.00, prohibit unfair debt collection practices by debt collection agencies.

Communication with Creditors and Collection Agencies

When communicating directly with you, creditors and collection agencies may not:

  • Call you at home more than twice for each debt in any seven-day period, or more than twice for each debt in any 30-day period at some place other than your home, such as your place of work.
  • Call you at work if you have requested that they not call. Your oral request that a collector not call you at work is valid for 10 days only. Written requests are valid until you write to the collector removing the restriction.
  • Call you without identifying both the name of the creditor and the name of the person calling. The caller may use a name other than his or her own, but the creditor or collection agency on whose behalf the call is being made must be able to identify that person.
  • Contact you directly, if you have told the creditor or collection agency you are represented by an attorney.
  • Use profane or obscene language.
  • Cause expense to you in the form of long distance calls, express mail charges, wire fees, or other similar charges.
  • Falsely threaten to take legal action that the creditor does not take or reasonably intend to take.
  • Tell anyone (including your friends, neighbors, relatives, or employers) about your debt, without your written consent.
  • Mail to you any printed or written materials that reveal or imply that you owe a debt (for example, by using a postcard to contact you or using a descriptive return address).
  • Solicit post-dated checks from you.
  • Visit your home at times other than your normal waking hours. A collector may not visit you more than once in any 30-day period for each debt, unless you give permission for additional visits.
  • Call you at times other than your normal waking hours. If your waking hours are unknown, then the collector may only call between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
 Additional Rights

A creditor must allow you or your attorney to inspect any document on which the creditor is relying to prove that you owe the debt being collected, e.g., a credit card application, account statement, promissory note, ledger, account card, or similar record in the creditor’s possession, which reflects the date and amount of payments, credits and charges related to the debt. Failure to do so is an unfair or deceptive act or practice under the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations, 940 CMR 7.08 pdf format of    940 CMR 7.00 Revised Clean PDF   .

Under State and Federal Law, if you want all debt collection contact to stop, and it is a debt collection agency (as opposed to the creditor itself) that is contacting you, you have the right to make a request in writing that all such contact stop ( 15 U.S.C. 1692c(c)209 CMR 18.14(3) ). Once you have made such a written request, the debt collection agency may not contact you again; however, the agency will still be permitted to sue you to try and collect the debt.

Locating a Debtor

Creditors and debt collection agencies are permitted to try to locate a debtor by contacting persons other than the debtor or persons residing in the debtor’s household, if the creditor or debt collection agency reasonably believes that it no longer has current information on the debtor’s location. However, it may not inform anyone it calls about your debt.

===============================================Source: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, 2013, (http://www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/consumer-information/credit-and-financial-literacy/consumer-credit/fair-debt-collection.html), last accessed 5/15/2013.

English: Sketch of Richard Mentor Johnson free...

Debtor’s Prison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About Zbiddy.com

Zbiddy is an internet auction site. Unlike Ebay, the site charges users money to place bids (“Purchase your bids Bids cost $0.60 each and come in packs of all sizes starting as little as $13.50!.”)

Complaints about Zbiddy.com

Ripoff Report (79 Complaints)

ComplaintsBoard.com

 

INVESTIGATION CLOSED – PLEASE REFER COMPLAINTS TO:

About Nationstar Mortgage

Nationstar Mortgage, LLC is a mortgage servicing company headquartered in Lewisville, TX.  A “mortgage servicer” is a debt collector by another name.  Nationstar recently acquired numerous Bank of America home loans.  Bank of America N.A. transferred the servicing of thousands of loans to Nationstar Mortgage LLC effective January 31st, 2013.

Complaints about Nationstar Mortgage

590 Complaints at Consumeraffairs.com

90 Complaints at RipoffReport.com

5 Complaints at Complaints.com

25 Complaints at Complaintsboard.com

Update:  One dead, one captured. 

Boston will never forget those lost, and will never forget how our city came together.   Read the rest of this entry »

Federal law prohibits debt collectors from making false or misleading representations when they attempt to collect debts.

15 U.S.C. § 1692e. False or misleading representations

A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading
representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.
Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following
conduct is a violation of this section: Read the rest of this entry »

 

Dun & Bradstreet

Dun & Bradstreet

 

Complaints about Dun & Bradstreet

There are many complaints about Dun & Bradstreet on the Internet from business owners.

Examples:

Does Dun and Bradstreet call your business “High Risk?”

Some business owners have complained that Dun & Bradstreet is running a scheme that has extortionate qualities. It goes something like this: D&B rates a business as “high risk.” The business owner, concerned about the possible negative impact this will have, considers doing anything, including paying D&B to change this negative rating.  At least one business owner has complained that D&B’s reasons for the so-called “high risk” rating were unfair, arbitrary, and intentionally vague and indecipherable.  In other words, the owner didn’t understand what the cause of the supposed problem was, so he was left with the choice of doing nothing, or paying the business that was causing the problem — Dun and Bradstreet. He complained of losing a large number of accounts because of an unfair “high risk” rating that had no verifiable basis in fact. He, complained that his once thriving business was now suffering because Dun and Bradstreet had labelled it “high risk,” for no good reason.  He was irate about this unfair situation over which did not cause, and had no way of fixing, short of rewarding Dun and Bradstreet financially for harming him financially, a step he was unwilling to take.

An operator of a small nonprofit reported last week that Dun and Bradstreet was reporting negative information about the organization she started, with multiple DUNS numbers, and would not give any explanation for the reputation-damaging rating or the multiple DUNS numbers. She was frustrated and angry.

These situations seem similar to one reported in the Wall Street Journal article entitled Small Businesses Seethe at Credit Service Using Dun & Bradstreet Name - Some Entrepreneurs Say They Were Misled by Sales Pitches

Excerpt:

“…The credit rating for her firm, The Good Search LLC, had changed to “high risk” because she wasn’t tapping many sources of credit, the salesman told her. That poor score could scare off her prospective lenders, suppliers and clients, he warned. But she might be able to improve her rating—if she paid for a yearlong program that promises to let small-business owners monitor and build their business credit. Anxious to rectify the problem, she said she spent $948 on the credit-management service, CreditBuilder, from the company, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Today, Ms. Bradford, who works from her Westport, Conn., home, believes she was misled by the pitch….”

Information about Dun and Bradstreet

  • Official name: The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation
  • Stock symbol: DNB  (New York Stock Exchange)
  • Website: http://www.dnb.com/
  • Telephone: (866) 273-4625
  • CEO: Ms. Sara Mathew, Total Annual Compensation: $825.0K
  • Founded: 1841
  • Offices: D&B is a company doing business in the State of Illinois with two of its primary locations at 55 Shuman Blvd. Ste 1000, Naperville, IL 60563, and 20 S Clark St. #2100, Chicago, IL 60603.

Recent Litigation against Dun & Bradstreet

The TCPA Class Action

Nicholas Martin v. Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. and Convergys Customer Management Group, Inc., No. 12 CV 215 (USDC N.D. IL.)

“On January 11, 2012, Nicholas Martin filed suit against Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. and Convergys Customer Management Group, Inc. (“Convergys”) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The complaint alleges that Defendants violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) (47 U.S.C. §227) because Convergys placed a telephone call to Plaintiff’s cell phone using an automatic telephone dialing system (“ATDS”) and because Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. authorized the telephone call. The TCPA generally prohibits the use of an ATDS to place a call to a cell phone for nonemergency purposes and without the prior express consent of the called party. The TCPA provides for statutory damages of $500 per violation, which may be trebled to $1,500 per violation at the discretion of the court if the plaintiff proves the defendant willfully violated the Act. Plaintiff sought to bring this action as a class action on behalf of all persons who Defendants called on their cell phone using an ATDS, where the Defendants obtained the cell phone number from some source other than directly from the called party, during the period January 11, 2010, to the present. Both Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. and Convergys answered the complaint on March 2, 2012. The matter has settled in principle. The proposed settlement agreement will be subject to approval by the Court.” Source: Dun & Bradstreet Corporation Quarterly Report

The “Bait and Switch” Class Action

On December, 12, 2012, the Class Action Complaint Complaint [PDF] was filed to commence O&R Construction, LLC v. Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation et al.

Excerpts from the complaint:

  • “This is a class action brought on behalf of thousands of small businesses who have been unfairlyand unlawfully deceived, misled and cheated by DBCC, as well as D&B. Defendants employ deceptive marketing to sell credit monitoring products under the name “CreditBuilder,” misrepresenting the nature, need and value of the products. Further, the CreditBuilder products do not perform as promised by Dun & Bradstreet.
  • Defendants’ aggressive marketing campaign features high-pressure sales tactics, including misleading form letters, e-mails and sales call scripts, which falsely claim that there are problems on a small business’s credit report with Dun & Bradstreet, which the CreditBuilder products can remedy.
  • The defendants sell small businesses expensive products that purport to improve their credit ratings and correct problems on their reports: CreditBuilder for $799/year, CreditBuilder Plus for $1099 /year and CreditBuilder Premium for $1599/year (collectively, the “CreditBuilder products”). The CreditBuilder products do not improve credit ratings as claimed. In fact, defendants conceal material information about the limitations of the products; and, in any event, the products do not provide the value Dun & Bradstreet claims, or the benefits for which small businesses purchase the products.”
  • Defendants have entered agreements, schemed and conspired, using the overwhelming market power of D&B, to manipulate the relevant credit reporting market in an anticompetitive manner. Defendants use exclusionary and predatory practices to monopolize the small business credit reporting and monitoring market in order to force sales of the CreditBuilder products…”
  • Defendants unfairly leverage Dun & Bradstreet’s unique position in the minds ofsmall businesses to sell the CreditBuilder products. DBCC claims it “provides the only real solution available to companies looking to monitor and impact their business credit profile.” According toDBCC, “perhaps most important, CreditBuilder gives companies the ability to add favorable credit references to their files to enhance credit scores and ratings.” In fact, DBCC trains its sales agents to present CreditBuilder products as those a small business “can’t live without.” Further, DBCC represents to small businesses the following: At D&B Credibility Corp., we make over . million updates to our database on a daily basis. It could be major transactions like paying vendors or making lease or mortgage payments, but it could also be seemingly smaller transactions like equipment leasing, advertising, shipping packages or underwriting insurance. With all this information flooding into D&B, it’s critical that you keep on top of your profile and credit score to help ensure you keep your reputation solid as you forge the relationships and partnerships that will enable your business to grow profitably.
  • As a result, small businesses are misled into believing that defendants will maintain daily updates on their credit profile and only accurate and up to date information when in reality defendants fail to maintain accurate and updated information on small businesses. At bottom, defendants lead businesses to believe that, unless they purchase the CreditBuilder products, they will not be able to properly monitor, verify or improve their D&Bratings, thereby running the risk that they will not be able to obtain credit, loans or contracts.
  • Since small businesses rely on their Dun & Bradstreet credit profiles to secure new business and to apply for loans or credit, defendants essentially hold the target customer’s credit rating hostage unless the small business buys a CreditBuilder product.
  • Defendants try to capitalize on the importance ofD&B-issued DUNS numbers when soliciting customers for CreditBuilder products. D&B provides DBCC a roster of DUNS numbers, which form a roster of target customers for sales agents (“sales queues”). By referencing a business’s DUNS number, defendants mislead the target customer to believe that the CreditBuilder products are necessary to monitor, verify and dispute items on their Dun & Bradstreet business credit profile.
  • Defendants routinely stress the importance of a DUNS number and mislead customers into believing that they can obtain a DUNS number by purchasing a CreditBuilder product. In truth, DUNS numbers are automatically generated by D&B prior to any solicitation of the customer. Defendants also mislead customers by referencing D&B’ s propriety ratings when marketing the CreditBuilder products DBCC will issue “credit alerts” to target customers, claiming that one of their D&B ratings should cause the customer a concern which only CreditBuilder products can remedy.
  • After bringing the weight of the Dun & Bradstreet name to bear upon target customers, the defendants employ other unlawful and deceptive sales tactics to instill fear in the minds of target customers. As set forth below, defendants issue uniform solicitations which falsely A DUNS number is “a unique nine-digit identification sequence used by the world’s most influential standards setting organizations and recognized, recommended, and often required by global corporations, governments, industry, and trade associations.” DUNS numbers are identifiers similar to a federal tax ID number, but DUNS numbers are only distributed by D&B. When applying for credit, loans or government bids, businesses are asked to provide their DUNS number. Vendors use a company’s DUNS number to pull information on the business, including its financial and credit risks.
  • D&B uses several ratings relevant to extensions of credit: (i) a PA YDEX® Score, which is a predictive indicator for paying bills on time; (ii) the Financial Stress Score, which is an indicator of financial stress to the business in the next months; (iii) the Credit Limit Recommendation, which provides guidelines for extending business credit; and (iv) an overall D&B Rating, which addresses the overall assessment of a business. claim that: (a) “inquiries” have been made about the target customer’s credit; (b) the target customer has an “incomplete” credit profile with D&B; and/or (c) the target customer has a Supplier Evaluation Risk (“SER”) rating of”High Risk of Financial Stress.” Each of these claims causes a small business owner reasonable and understandable concern, especially coming from Dun & Bradstreet. In the end, defendants strong-arm thousands of small businesses into purchasing CreditBuilder products each year by falsely claiming that the products will solve the “problem” or dramatically improve the customer’s credit profile.

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The seal of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source: DEA Press Release

APRIL 3 (WASHINGTON) — CVS Pharmacy, Inc., and Oklahoma CVS Pharmacy, L.L.C., (collectively “CVS”), have agreed to pay $11,000,000 to the United States to settle civil penalty claims for record-keeping violations under the Controlled Substances Act and related regulations, announced Administrator Michele M. Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. Read the rest of this entry »

Reporting Pay, or the “Three Hour Rule”

In Massachusetts, the law is clear about “reporting pay.” Reporting pay means the minimum pay that an employer must give for requiring an employee to show up for a shift of three or more hours, and then sending them home early.

Here is the law:

455 CMR 2.03

2.03: Hours Worked (1) Reporting Pay. When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. 455 CMR 2.03(1) shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.

Example:

Joe is a delivery man at a flower shop.  Joe is scheduled to work a full shift (5 hours) on Valentines Day.  Due to a nationwide shortage of roses, the business is unable to fill any orders. Joe’s boss “cuts” him and sends him home after 2.5 hours on the clock.  Joe’s hourly rate is $15.00.  The flower shop must pay him this way:

  • 2.5 hours at Joe’s regular rate of 15.00/hr, which equals  $37.5, then at least the minimum wage for a half hour, which would be $4.00, resulting in a  a total of $41.50 minimum owed to Joe.

Reporting Pay image

Source: Attorney General’s publication about Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws, .pdf (here).

There are no reported cases that I was able to find about this law. However, there is an opinion letter here and below:

07/09/2007 - Reporting Pay Provision "Three Hour Rule"
Opinion Letter
MW-2007-002
July 9, 2007
I am writing in response to your request, on behalf of your client ***, for this Office's written opinion regarding the applicability of the Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law. Specifically, you have asked how 455 C.M.R. §2.03(1), the Reporting Pay requirement, applies to employees scheduled to work less than three hours. [1]
The Reporting Pay provision, also known as the "three hour rule," provides:
When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. [This provision] shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.
455 C.M.R. §2.03(1). Therefore, if a for-profit employer schedules an employee for three or more hours, the employee arrives at the worksite on time, and the employer does not provide the expected hours, the employee must be paid for at least three hours at no less than the minimum wage ($7.50 per hour). Of course, for any actual time worked, the employee must be paid his/her actual wage. For example, if an employee is told that a meeting will take four hours, and the employee is sent home after two hours, the employee must be paid for two hours at his/her regular rate of pay, and at least minimum wage for the third hour. [2]
Alternatively, if an employee is, in good faith, scheduled for less than three hours, the employer may pay the employee for only the hours worked. For example, if an employee is scheduled for a two-hour meeting and she/he works these two hours, the "three hour rule" is inapplicable, and the employer may pay the employee for only the hours worked.
I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.
Sincerely,
Lisa C. Price
Deputy General Counsel
[1] As you know, most employers are also subject to the federal minimum wage and hour law, found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and regulations promulgated thereunder. For information about applicable federal wage and hour laws, you should contact the U.S. Department of Labor.
[2] Of course, if the meeting causes a non-exempt employee's hours to exceed 40 hours in the workweek, the employee must be paid time and one-half pay for all hours actually worked in excess of 40 hours.
***=Names have been Omitted

Recently overheard:

“Sudden sleep?  What is this stuff? Specifically formulated for women? What does that mean?”

Sudden Sleep

Sudden Sleep

Sudden Sleep is a new product from Biotab Nutraceuticals, the company behind Extenze.  Biotab was on the receiving end of several actions from California authorities, and at least one class action lawsuit alleging false advertising.    Read the rest of this entry »

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"The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell."
- Confucius (c.500 BC)

"History supplies little more than a list of people who have helped themselves to the property of others." - Voltaire (1694)
"Behind every great fortune there is a great crime." - Honoré de Balzac (1835)
“It is impossible to frame definitions which embrace all unfair practices. There is no limit to human inventiveness in this field.”- H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 1142, 63d Cong., 2d Sess.19 (1914)
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