Category Archives: Class Action Investigations

Class Action Investigation: Junk Mail from Restoration Hardware

Some consumers have complained about twelve pound parcels of junk mail they have received from Restoration Hardware. Have you received Restoration Hardware’s massive catalogue?

Restoration Hardware

You are invited to contact us about this investigation if (a) you made a credit/debit card purchase at a Massachusetts Restoration Hardware retail location within the past four years; (b) the teller asked you for your ZIP code; (c) you received junk mail from Restoration Hardware.

Restoration Hardware recently suffered a $36,000,000 judgment related to its California junk mail operations (Hernandez v. Restoration Hardware – pdf)

Information About Restoration Hardware

Restoration Hardware Holdings, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a luxury home furnishings retailer. The company offers various categories, including furniture, lighting, textiles, bathware, decor, outdoor and garden, tableware, and children’s furnishings. These products are sold through the company’s stores, catalogs, and Websites.” Restoration Hardware is a publicly traded company (RH Form 10-Q)).

Restoration Hardware Headquarters
15 Koch Road, Suite J
Corte Madera, CA 94925
Phone: 415-924-1005
www.restorationhardware.com

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Class Action Investigation: Student Loans through The Access Group –> ACS –> Xerox

Some consumers have complained that late fees were assessed and interest rate reductions offered in connection with their enrollment in auto-pay were not honored after Xerox’s subsidiary Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. or ACS-Education (“ACS”) took over The Access Group’s portfolio of undergraduate and graduate program student loans.  There are many people whose loans were transferred from The Access Group to ACS – how many borrowers had their automatic payments interrupted by the change and lost interest rate reductions due to the change?

Xerox - ACS

Xerox – ACS

 Were your automatic payments interrupted through no fault of your own? Did ACS take away interest rate deductions because auto-pay interruptions? You are welcome to contact the Leonard Law Office if this issue has affected you.

According to a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts by the Leonard Law Office P.C. on behalf of an idividual, the Plaintiff’s experience with ACS has been as follows:

1. He financed his law school education with student loans through The Access Group, Inc. Upon graduation in 2011, he enrolled in an automatic withdrawal program. Like any other automatic deduction program, Access Group’s program withdrew funds on a monthly basis from his checking account to cover student loan payments as they became due.  He never missed a payment.

2. There were four reasons for doing this: (1) to avoid the inconvenience of having to write a check and mail it in every month; (2) to be sure that as the payments became due, they would be made on time; (3) to receive the .25% interest rate reduction offered as incentive for enrolling in the automatic payment program; (4) to receive an additional .8% interest rate reduction offered for making his first 12 payments on time.

3. As a result of enrolling in the automatic payment program, his student loan interest rates fell from 6.8% to 5.75%. With a term of 30 years for the loan, this was supposed to save him about $15,000 in interest. However, every advantage he expected to receive disappeared. This is where the facts become interesting.

4. At some point in 2012, Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) took over the loan from the Access Group. ACS is a subsidiary of Xerox Corp. He was never notified about this change in his loan servicer, nor did he have any say or control over who would ultimately come to service his student loans.  In January 2012, he put his loans into deferment. He was explicitly told that once his loans came out of deferment, the automatic payment program would automatically resume through Automatic Bill Payment (ABP). In February 2013, he ended deferment, but ACS did not re-start the payments as promised, causing the February payment to be unpaid. The missed payment triggered late fees and caused the interest rates to automatically return to 6.8%. Once notified of the problem, he immediately paid the February payment, went online and reestablish the automatic payments himself, even though ACS told him this would be done by them, without any action required on his part when he emerged from deferment. When he complained to ACS (this new student loan servicer owned by Xerox) about how they had failed to carry over the automating payments, ACS refused to restore the interest rate deduction of .8%. He sent a demand letter to ACS under M.G.L c. 93A, but they did not respond. To this day, he makes his payments automatically, having only been late once, not through his fault but through the fault of ACS. The interest rate problem has still not been corrected by ACS, despite his filing of a lawsuit.

Questions About ACS

  •  Did ACS intend to increase interest rates once it acquired student loans from The Access Group?
  • Is ACS’s customer service department designed to frustrate its customers’ attempts to fix errors?
  • Were automatic payments not resumed as a “trap” to take away interest rate reduction?
  • How many other consumers, saddled with educational debts, lost interest rate reductions as a result of this business practice?

Information About ACS

  • ACS is a Delaware limited liability company with its principal executive offices located in Long Beach, California.
  • ACS is an independent, third-party originator and servicer of student loans.
  • ACS has its headquarters at One World Trade Center, Suite 2200, Long Beach, California, 90831 and has regional processing centers in Long Beach and Bakersfield, California; Utica, New York; Lombard, Illinois; Canyon, Texas; and Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Complaints About ACS

 

 

Other Litigation Against Xerox about Student Loan Servicing

Read the Reynolds v. XEROX EDUCATION SERVICES, LLC,f/k/a ACS EDUCATION SERVICES, INC. and WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., class action complaint (here).

 

 

 

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Class Action Investigation: GM Ignition Recall

General Motors is the subject of investigation for taking more than ten years to recall 2.6 million cars with an ignition switch defect that allegedly caused between 13 and 74 fatalites. We are currently accepting clients who own GM vehicles of the models/years listed below:

Buick Lacrosse 2005-2009
Chevrolet Impala 2006-2014
Cadillac Deville 2000–2005
Cadillac DTS 2007–2011
Buick Lucerne 2006–2011
Buick Regal LS & GS 2004-2005
Chevrolet Monte Carlo 2006–2008
Chevrolet Camaro 2010—2014

If you have one of these vehicles, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

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Under Investigation – Wage Practices of McDonald’s, Subway, Dominos, and Dunkin Donuts

Do Massachusetts fast food franchises violate labor laws?

Examples of labor law violations:

Minimum wage violations – Not paying employees the minimum wage. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as when employees are required to pay for uniforms, causing net pay to sink below minimum wage. The Massachusetts minimum wage is $8.00/hr., and the Federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr.

Break violations – Not granting breaks, or deducting a 30 minute lunch break from pay, without actually allowing the break.

Overtime violations – Not paying employees for time and a half for work over 40 hours in a week.

“Off-the-clock” violations – Requiring employees to do unpaid work before or after punching in.

Paycheck docking violations – Deducting money from paychecks for cash register shortages when this causes the paycheck to fall below minimum wage.

Misclassification violations – Illegally designating employees as “Independent Contractors,” Providing 1099 instead of W2 forms to employees to save the business money.

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Unpaid Interns – Should You Be Paid For Your Work?

Unpaid internships can seem like a great opportunity.  Sometimes, however, unpaid internships benefit the employer far more than the intern.  In some cases, unpaid internship programs violate state and federal labor laws.

Have you been negatively affected by an unpaid internship? We are accepting stories about unpaid internships in Massachusetts. We are also accepting clients who wish to seek financial compensation after working as unpaid interns. 

The use of unpaid interns obviously allows employers to reduce labor costs. Starving for opportunity, energetic and naive young people are routinely exploited through unpaid internships.

Unpaid interns are becoming the modern-day equivalent of entry-level employees, except that employers are not paying them for the many hours that they work.  Unlike apprenticeship programs of the past, many interns are not taught a trade, or given paid employment after their internship. Instead, most interns are required to do general menial tasks and gopher work with no educational value, for no pay.

Minimum wage laws require that employers pay all employes (even college students and recent grads who are desperate for work) the minimum wage, as well as overtime for hours over forty in a workweek.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has no exemption for interns unless they are apprentices or in a vocational training program. The Department of Labor (DOL) uses a six-factor test to evaluate whether a worker is a trainee or an employee.  It is only permissible to pay interns and less than minimum wage (and even then at no less than 75% of minimum wage) after applying for and being granted an authorizing certificate from the DOL, pursuant to Section 14(a) of the FLSA.

Another aspect of the use of unpaid interns is the unfair business advantage that this business practice creates.  The competitive disadvantage suffered by businesses not supplemented by unpaid intern labor in unfair.

The Department of Labor published a fact sheet about how federal law applies to unpaid internships — see below:

Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

This fact sheet provides general information to help determine whether interns must be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act for the services that they provide to “for-profit” private sector employers.

Background

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines the term “employ” very broadly as including to “suffer or permit to work.”  Covered and non-exempt individuals who are “suffered or permitted” to work must be compensated under the law for the services they perform for an employer.  Internships in the “for-profit” private sector will most often be viewed as employment, unless the test described below relating to trainees is met.  Interns in the “for-profit” private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.*

The Test For Unpaid Interns

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships or training programs may do so without compensation.  The Supreme Court has held that the term “suffer or permit to work” cannot be interpreted so as to make a person whose work serves only his or her own interest an employee of another who provides aid or instruction.  This may apply to interns who receive training for their own educational benefit if the training meets certain criteria.  The determination of whether an internship or training program meets this exclusion depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of each such program.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.  This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad.  Some of the most commonly discussed factors for “for-profit” private sector internship programs are considered below.

Similar To An Education Environment And The Primary Beneficiary Of The Activity

In general, the more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit).  The more the internship provides the individual with skills that can be used in multiple employment settings, as opposed to skills particular to one employer’s operation, the more likely the intern would be viewed as receiving training.  Under these circumstances the intern does not perform the routine work of the business on a regular and recurring basis, and the business is not dependent upon the work of the intern.  On the other hand, if the interns are engaged in the operations of the employer or are performing productive work (for example, filing, performing other clerical work, or assisting customers), then the fact that they may be receiving some benefits in the form of a new skill or improved work habits will not exclude them from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements because the employer benefits from the interns’ work.

Displacement And Supervision Issues

If an employer uses interns as substitutes for regular workers or to augment its existing workforce during specific time periods, these interns should be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a workweek.  If the employer would have hired additional employees or required existing staff to work additional hours had the interns not performed the work, then the interns will be viewed as employees and entitled compensation under the FLSA.  Conversely, if the employer is providing job shadowing opportunities that allow an intern to learn certain functions under the close and constant supervision of regular employees, but the intern performs no or minimal work, the activity is more likely to be viewed as a bona fide education experience.  On the other hand, if the intern receives the same level of supervision as the employer’s regular workforce, this would suggest an employment relationship, rather than training.

Job Entitlement

The internship should be of a fixed duration, established prior to the outset of the internship.  Further, unpaid internships generally should not be used by the employer as a trial period for individuals seeking employment at the conclusion of the internship period.  If an intern is placed with the employer for a trial period with the expectation that he or she will then be hired on a permanent basis, that individual generally would be considered an employee under the FLSA.

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23 and Me — Investigation Closed

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.”

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Class Action Investigation: Are Micro Center’s Return Policies Unlawful?

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)

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Papa John’s – “Never Frozen” Dough?

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 Continue reading

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Equity Residential Faces Class Action Lawsuit About Heat and Water (Habitability) Issues at the Walden Park Apartments

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

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LexisNexis Class Action Investigation

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.”

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Class Action Investigation: Protein Powders — Prolab Advanced Essential Whey Protein Powder & Others

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

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Efax – A Company to be Wary of?

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.

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)

Continue reading

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Under Investigation: Derma Silk

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.”

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Nationstar Mortgage — A company to be wary of?

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

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Dun & Bradstreet – A company to be wary of?

 

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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Victims of Green Tree Servicing and Bank of America

INVESTIGATION CLOSED – PLEASE REFER COMPLAINTS TO:

Bank of America Logo

+

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.

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$5,000 Reward Offered for Evidence of Facebook Biometric Privacy Violations

Reward

Wanted: Facebook

The Leonard Law Office, PC is offering a $5,000.00 reward to anyone who provides verifiable, credible information leading to the successful prosecution of a class action lawsuit against Facebook regarding its use, collection, or storage of biometric data. Specifically, we are looking for proof that Facebook has shared or sold biometric data with third parties. We are investigating all aspects of Facebook’s conduct surrounding the implementation, use, and possible misuse of facial recognition and biometrics. Biometrics refers to unique anatomical features used for identification purposes.  For Background Information about Facebook, “Tag Suggestion,” and Biometrics, See EPIC‘s FTC ComplaintIn re Facebook and Facial Recognition (here) (filed June 10, 2011). To inquire about this investigation and reward, you are welcome to contact Preston W. Leonard, Esq. at (617) 329-1295.

Related: Biometricupdate.com: “Boston law firm offers reward for proof that Facebook has shared or sold biometric data with third parties,” (here).

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“Zip Code Cases”

“Zip Code Cases” and why they are important 

Numerous class actions have been filed against retailers concerning improper data collection during checkout. These so-called “zip code cases” raise important privacy issues, and we will continue to push ahead with them.  Throughout America and Massachusetts, businesses collect an unprecedented volume of data about consumers and sometimes they do so unlawfully. Over twenty years ago, the Massachusetts legislature wanted consumers to have privacy and security when they use credit cards, and therefore limited what information merchants can collect. The implications of excessive data collection are for more troubling in this new era of “big data.” Today, the average consumer has little to no understanding of how their personal information is collected, scrutinized, cross-referenced, and monetized.  According to a FTC report (pdf) issued in May, 2014 “data brokers collect consumer data from numerous sources, largely without consumers’ knowledge.” Information harvested by retailers during credit card transactions is digital gold to data brokers.

Collecting ZIP odes is usually illegal in Massachusetts

A large number of retailers  have violated and continue to 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.” Continue reading

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Electronic Pest Repellent Devices Class Action Investigation (Riddex, Victor, Pest-a-cator, Emerson, etc.)

Under Investigation: Electronic Pest Repellent Devices

They click, beep, or emit some kind of ultrasonic noise or pulse. The premise seems sensible enough – they supposedly do the job by sending out sounds that are annoying to critters but inaudible to humans.  These gadgets promise to repel household pests such as mice, rats, racoons, etc. but do they really work? The claims made by all of these devices are in question.  Bell & Howell, and other companies make them, and they are sold at hardware stores and online retailers.

Below are some pictures of a device for sale at CVS and on television. It is called Riddex plus. The product claims to be a “Pest Repelling Aid…Patented digital pulse technology…For Rodents, Roaches, Ants, and Spiders….Simply plug into any home outlet…Turn your home’s wiring into a pest repellent force field!”

Riddex Pest Repelling Aid

Below is a close up of an icon on a Riddex package depicting a rat, cockroach, and spider as “banned.”

Rats, spiders, roaches

Rats, spiders, roaches*

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Bed Bug “Bombs” & “Foggers” Class Action Investigation

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the ...

An adult bed bug (Cimex lectularius) with the typical flattened oval shape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under InvestigationBed Bug “Bombs” & “Foggers”

Questions? Have information? – call Preston W. Leonard, Esq. at (617)329-1295.

Do Bed Bug Bombs and Foggers Work?

There are three bed bug products whose efficacy are in question:

  1. Hot Shot
  2. Spectracide
  3. Eliminator
Hot Shot

Hot Shot

According a recent study [here], “The nature of these foggers is such that they don’t penetrate in cracks and crevices where most bedbugs are hiding, so most of them will survive.”

See the Ohio State University researcher’s video below:

Ohio State University Bed Bug Fogger Study

Ohio State University Bed Bug Fogger Study

NPR reported:

  • “[R] readily available bug bombs that fill the house with a pesticide fog are understandably tempting. But research shows they’re not likely to work.
  • Writing in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers from Ohio State University say they tested three popular bug bomb products on five different populations of bedbugs, collected “in the wild” from homes around Ohio. All three products failed miserably. (Emphasis added).
  • A bug bomb is basically an aerosol can that fills a room with insecticides called pyrethrins. They didn’t exactly have a stellar reputation before, either. There are anecdotal reports that the products stir up the bugs, causing them to leave their hiding places and potentially scatter to new locations. And as NPR’s Jon Hamilton reported last year, many bedbugs are becoming resistant to pyrethrins.
  • “If [bug bombs] don’t work in the first place, that’s what people need to know,” lead author and entymology professor Susan Jones tells Shots. So she tested three products, including two general-purpose bug bombs, Spectracide Bug Stop Indoor Fogger and Eliminator Indoor Fogger, and one marketed specifically for bedbugs, Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Fogger. All three are manufactured by Spectrum Brands.
  • The Federal Trade Commission‘s website goes even further. “Steer clear of bug bombs or foggers,” it warns, citing the scattering effect.

Are Bed Bug Foggers Safe?

At least one consumer has complained of devastating physical side effects of using a bed bug fogger.  Some government studies suggest that the pesticides used in foggers (i.e permethrin, tetramethrin, cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, and piperonyl butoxide) can  harm humans. According to CDC report, at least one infant death is suspected to have resulted from bed bug fogger poisoning: “This death occurred in a female infant aged 10 months who was put to bed the evening of the day her apartment was treated with three TRFs. The infant was found dead the next morning.

The safety of these products, which are marketed as providing a quick fix, have been questioned by federal and state agencies aside from the CDC For example:

NewYorkvsBedbugs.org postedNew York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it would classify total release foggers (“TRFs” or “bug bombs”) as restricted-use products available only to professionals. We applauded that move, which followed a CDC study on the illnesses and injuries caused by TRFs, in large part because TRFs are inappropriate products to use by consumers in the control of bed bug infestations. They make infestations more difficult to control, dispersing bed bugs to scattered harborage sites and walls and increasing the likelihood that an infestation will spread to adjacent locations.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has urged safety precautions for total release foggers and has warned: ” failure to vacate premises during fogging or reentering without airing out may result in illness.”

Time Magazine reported: “Bed bugs do not transmit disease or cause illness — but the insecticides used to kill them do. A total of 111 illnesses associated with bed bug-related insecticides were reported in seven states between 2003 and 2010 (mostly in the last three years), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday. Most cases of poisoning were not severe, but the data included one death.

Information about Spectrum Brands, Inc.

Spectrum makes, Hot Shot, Spectracide, and Eliminator.  Spectrum is a Delaware corporation with its corporate headquarters at 601 Rayovac Drive, Madison, Wisconsin. Spectrum labels and advertises that its Hot Shot Bed Bug Products “Kill(s) Bed Bugs.” This representation is central to Spectrum’s marketing of its Hot Shot Bed Bug Products, and is displayed on the product itself, Spectrum’s website, and other online advertisements. See Hot Shot, http://www.hotshot.com/ (click on “Bedbugs” tab; then “learn more” link for “Hot Shot Pest Bed Bug & Flea Killer Aerosol” and “Hot Shot Bed Bug & Flea Fogger” products.

Hot Shot

Hot Shot product claims

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The Ladders.com Class Action Investigation

New:   Investigation – Closed  Bursor & Fisher, P.A. has  filed a class actions against the TheLadders.com. For more information about that case, their website is here. =======================================

Issues with TheLadders.com (1) Salary Ranges – whether consumers have been misled by Theladders.com‘s claims about employment opportunities.  Has Theladders.com overstated salary ranges? (2) Billing Practices – whether TheLadders.com has overbilled, or misled consumers about its billing model. Theladders.com Job Seeker Complaints about Theladders.com According to a recent story (here), “People pay fees to access “Only $100k+ jobs.” Then they go on an interview for one of those Ladders-listed jobs, only to find the job pays nowhere near $100k.” TheLadders.com job Search – “High End” or “Bait and Switch?” TheLadders.com has a Youtube video (below), which captures some of the issues with this company. The caption states, “Another successful $100k+ job search!”

  • Does this company employ bait and switch tactics, or does it fairly represent the jobs that are available?
  • The Ladders supposedly “focuses on high-end jobs” and charges fees to offer up the best employment opportunities, but are the jobs really “high end”?
  • Are the fees worth it for job-seekers, or is The Ladders essentially collecting money for something that it does not in fact deliver?
  • What have your experiences with this company been? Did they meet your expectations? Were the fees you paid worth it?  Has your job search benefited from this fee-based service, or were you better off with free services like Monster.com?

Hired! Is the Ladders.com a Scam? Another article (here), claims that “The Ladders Is One Gigantic Scam That Preys On Unsuspecting Job Seekers.” Lawsuits against Theladders.com A recent class action lawsuit against TheLadders.com alleges: “Unlike other job boards which are free to join, theLadders charged a premium subscription fee to members for ‘hand-screening ever job post and recruiter so you only see real, open $100k+ jobs in your area.’  In reality, however, its job postings were not hand-screened.  There were ‘scraped’ from the Internet without authorization from employers or recruiters and the employment opportunities were not for “real, open $100k+ jobs.” Moreover, Theladders had no process in place to ensure that these posted positions ever truly existed, remained open, or that they met its minimum advertised annual compensation criteria of $100k+.” Marc Cenedella One aspect of this story is how much CEO Marc Cenedalla has been making from theladders.com.  How profitable has this venture been for him? Related articles

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Class Action Investigation: Greystar

Under Investigation: Greystar’s Business Practices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Greystar operates six apartment buildings in Massachusetts:

Have you been charged an “amenity fee,” “pet deposit,” or “application fee” by Greystar? If so, you are encouraged to contact us, because your tenant rights under Massachusetts law may have been violated, and you could be entitled to financial compensation.

Do you have other complaints about Greystar?

Greystar

Greystar

In a January 2013 press release Greystar claims to be “the largest operator of apartments in the United States” (Equity Residential may dispute that assertion).

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Greystar: Redefining Excellence in Apartment Living?

Really?

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5 Hour Energy Class Action Investigation

Leonard Law Office, LLP is investigating 5-Hour Energy.  At issue is whether consumers have been misled by 5-Hour Energy packaging and advertisements.  If you purchased 5-Hour Energy, and want more information about this class action investigation, you are encouraged to contact us.

5 Hour Energy product label

5 Hour Energy product label

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In 2010, a false advertising class action complaint was filed in California against 5 Hour Energy.  That case did not survive due to issues related to the plaintiff and class counsel.
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Related information –  Center for Science in the Public Interest, Health Group Issues Warning Over Deceptive “5-hour Energy” Web Ads, December, 2012.

NAD Examines Advertising for Living Essentials’ ’5 Hour Energy Shot,’ Following Challenge by ‘Monster’ Maker Hansen

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Skin Tag Removal Products Class Action Investigation

You may have seen adds on television for “all natural” or “homeophathic” topical products which claim to get rid of skin tags without surgery.

ElimiTag Homeopathic Medicine promises that it will “Get rid of ugly, annoying skin tags naturally and painlessly.”

Tag Away Thuja Occidentalis Homeophathic Skin Tag Remover claims that it “Removes Skin Tags the All-Natural Way!” and “Skin Tags Just Dry Up & Fall Away!”

Another skin tag removal product, Skintag-s.com, claims to remove Skin Tags, Moles & Warts in 15 – 20 minutes

The Leonard Law Office, LLP is investigating whether consumers have been misled by these claims. If you purchased a skin tag removal product and found the results you obtained did not live up to marketing claims, please contact us.

Tag Away Website Screenshot

Tag Away Website Screenshot

Elimitag Website Screenshot

Elimitag Website Screenshot

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Boycott Instagram

Instagram’s Arbitration Clause Makes Class Actions Against Instagram Impossible: “Instagram’s Binding Arbitration Clause Could Be the Worst Ever: It Seeks to Kill Off All Representative Actions… the photo-sharing company Instagram is following in eBay’s footsteps — with a pre-dispute binding arbitration clause and a class-action ban, along with a largely illusory opt-out provision. Learn how to opt out of the Instagram arbitration clause here.

Instagram monitoring

Instagram

 

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The Olay Regenerist Line & “Anti-Aging” claims

Olay Regenerist

Olay Regenerist

Introduction

The Olay Regenerist line consist of at least thirty different products. There are currently twenty six Regenerist products listed on Olay.com1, and twenty eight listed on the PG eStore website.2

The Regenerist product line is intended to work together as a five-part 24 hour “anti-aging” skin care regimen: (1) cleansers; (2) preparers; (3) moisturizers; (4) daily treatments; and (5) specialty treatments. The inventiveness of the Procter & Gamble – Olay marketing department is impressive; the Regenerist line covers every aspect of skin care imaginable, and some which defy imagination, running the gamut from morning cleansers, to facial peels, targeted specialty treatments for trouble where the signs of aging show most (such as around the eyes), a “DNA Superstructure Cream,” portable pre-moistened facial wipes, to an overnight “recovery” cream.

There is no time during the day or night, or juncture in a daily facial care ritual, at which a consumer would be unable to reach for some product from the Olay Regenerist “anti-aging” line of goods. If the consumer follows the instructions and urgings on the product packaging, they should always be using one of the overlapping products within the Olay Regenerist “anti-aging” product line to “create the perfect skin care solution.”

The Olay Regenerist Product Line: Continue reading

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Update on Class Action Lawsuit Against Citizens Bank for Overdraft Fees

On 9/28/13, I received a check from the Citizens Bank Overdraft settlement for $6.33 (below).

Citizens Bank Overdraft  Fee Settlement Check

Citizens Bank Overdraft Fee Settlement Check

The letter said, “This check is issued pursuant to the terms of class action settlement in the cases styled as In Re: Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, Case No. 1:09-md-02036-JLK; Duval v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc., et al., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-21080-JLK; Daniels v. Citizens Financial Group, Inc., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-22014-JLK; and Blanksenship v. RBS Citizens, N.A., et al., S.D. Fla. Case No. 1:10-cv-22942-JLK.

You can get more information about the Settlement by visiting the settlement website at http://www.citizensoverdraftsettlement.com, call the toll free number, 1-888-273-0426, or by contacting the Citizens Overdraft Settlement Administrator at PO Box 3410, Portland, OR 97208-3410.”

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Important: If you are looking for information about the Citizens Bank Overdraft Settlement, the official website is here: https://www.citizensoverdraftsettlement.com//

On 11/19/12, I received this notice in the mail:

Most Commons Questions about the citizens bank overdraft class action:

1) How much will Citizens bank customers be paid out of the overdraft class action lawsuit settlement?

2) When will citizens bank reimburse overdrafts?

3) How to join the class action suit against Citizens bank?

I wrote Citizens bank customer service on May 4, 2012 asking about the settlement, because I too was affected by Citizen bank overdraft fees.

They wrote back:

“Dear Preston Leonard,

Thank you for your recent inquiry.  Please be advised if the court approves the settlement, impacted customers will be formally notified. If you have any further questions you may email us or call us at our 24 hour Customer Service at 800 922-9999.”

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Citizens Bank to pay $137.5m to settle overdraft suit

By Beth Healy and Todd Wallack, Globe Staff:

Quote from Globe Article:

“Citizens Bank customers hit with questionable overdraft fees could receive refunds under a settlement announced Wednesday in which the bank agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle charges it manipulated customers’ debit card and ATM transactions.  The bank was accused of processing the transactions in a way that made overdrafts more likely, boosting the income it collected from customers forced to pay overdraft fees.  Citizens did not admit wrongdoing in the case, which is being heard in federal court in Miami. The court must still approve the settlement….”

Read the rest of the story about the Citizens bank overdraft fee class action settlement here. Continue reading

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“Anti-Aging” Products Class Action Investigation

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:

Continue reading

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Class Action Investigation: Eastern Bank, Middlesex Savings Bank, Rockland Trust Company, Salem Five Bank — Overdraft Fees

Under Investigation: -OVERDRAFT FEES- Eastern Bank, Middlesex Savings, Rockland Trust, Salem Five

ANNOUNCEMENT: You may have heard of (or been affected by) overdraft fees at Citizens Bank or Bank of America, and the class action lawsuits and settlements related to those overdraft fees.

There are four Massachusetts state-chartered banks which may have engaged in similar unfair practices related to overdraft fees.  They are: (1) Middlesex Savings Bank; (2) Rockland Trust; (3) Salem Five; (4) Eastern Bank. Whenever bank transactions are re-ordered from highest to lowest to put customers into a negative balance – thereby causing a domino effect of overdraft fees, banking customers have been injured. This is especially true if you used a debit card for multiple purchases over a period of several days without realizing you had a negative balance.

If you have been a customer of any of the banks listed below, and you have paid overdraft fees, you are encouraged to contact us at (617)329-1295.

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Bank Watch List:

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Equity Residential Class Action & Ongoing Investigation into Equity’s Business Practices

UNDER INVESTIGATION: Equity Residential

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

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

Continue reading

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Verizon Landline Fees Class Action Lawsuit Filed in Massachusetts Federal Court

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 Continue reading

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Class Action Investigation: Kiehl’s “Anti-Aging” Products

Under Investigation: Kiehl’s Anti-Aging Products

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products that Kiehl’s has sold in the past four years, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Kiehl’s Complaints. The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against Kiehl’s for its “anti-aging” cosmetics.

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Warning: If you have purchased any anti-wrinkle or anti-aging skin cream, serum, or other product, you may have been misled.

About Kiehl’s

Kiehl’s is headquarted at 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY.  Kiehl’s was founded in East Village in 1851 by a pharmacist named John Kiehl.  Presently, the full name of the business is “KIEHL’S SINCE 1851 LLC.”  L’Oreal bought Kiehl’s in 2000. Chris Salgardo is the current President of Kiehl’s.

Kiehl’s Anti-Aging & Anti-Wrinkle Products

Kiehl’s aggressive anti-aging and anti-wrinkle claims are in question.

Kiehl’s “Line Reducing” Vitamin C

This product claims to have line-reducing benefits caused by Vitamin C. We questions the validity of such a claim.

Age Reducing Power of Vitamin C

“Feel the Power of Age Reducing Power of Vitamin C”

 

Kiehl’s Rosa Artica Line

1. Rosa Artica Youth Regenerating Cream with Rare “Resurrection Flower”

Claims:

  • “Youth Regenerating”
  • “Recharge cells”
  • “Jolt back youth”
  • “Delivers energy to skin allowing cellular activity to reawaken”
  • “Skin transforms to a more youthful beginning”

2. Rosa Artica Youth Regenerating Lightweight Cream with Rare “Resurrection Flower”

Claims:

  • Works to jolt cellular vitality, stimulating skin’s own collagen and elastin production.”

3. Rosa Artica Youth Regenerating Eye Balm with Rare “Resurrection Flower”

Claims:

  • Jolts cellular vitality by stimulating skin’s collagen and elastin production.”

Kiehl’s Rosa Artica “Anti-Aging” cosmetics

Kiehl’s Newbury Street, Boston MA

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Rosa Artica

Rosa Artica

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Lets Us Change Your Skin!

Lets Us Change Your Skin!

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Kiehl’s Anti-Wrinkle Cream with Copper PCA and Calcium PCA

Kiehl's Copper

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Olay Total Effects “Anti-Aging” Class Action Investigation

Under Investigation: Olay Total Effects product line

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have purchased any of the supposed “anti-aging” products listed below, you are encouraged to contact us today about your Olay Complaints. The FDA has declared that certain marketing claims violate the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The Leonard Law Office, LLP is accepting inquiries from potential Massachusetts class representatives to bring a class action against Olay for its “anti-aging” cosmetics.

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  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Eye Treatment
  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Night Moisturizer
  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Fair to Light
  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Light to Medium
  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Medium to Deep
  • Total Effects Tone Correcting Spot Treatment
  • Total Effects Daily Moisturizer
  • Total Effects Fragrance-Free Daily Moisturizer
  • Total Effects Fragrance-Free Moisturizer With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15
  • Total Effects + Touch of Sun
  • Total Effects Mature Skin Therapy
  • Total Effects Night Firming Treatment
  • Total Effects Moisturizer + Touch of Foundation
  • Total Effects Eye Treatment
  • Total Effects Refreshing Citrus Scrub
  • Total Effects Revitalizing Foaming Cleanser
  • Total Effects Nourishing Cream Cleanser
  • Total Effects blemish control salicylic acid acne cleanser
  • Total Effects Wet Cleansing Cloths
  • Total Effects Lathering Cleansing Cloths
  • Total Effects 7-in-1 Advanced Anti Aging Body Wash – Deep Penetrating Moisture
  • Total Effects 7-in-1 Advanced Anti Aging Body Wash – Exfoliate & Replenish
  • Total Effects Body Lotion

Olay Total Effects

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L’Oréal Faces False Advertising Class Action Lawsuit in Boston Federal Court

A class action lawsuit against L’Oréal was filed in federal court in Massachusetts on Friday, September 14, 2012.  The class is represented by twelve attorneys in four states.

For more information, Contact us.

L’Oreal’s Anti-Aging Claims Questioned

The Complaint alleges, in part:

  • “The search for the elusive waters of the “Fountain of Youth” has tempted those seeking to restore youth and beauty for ages. Indeed, as the story goes, in 1513, the great explorer Juan Ponce De Leon searched high and low for the “Fountain of Youth” – only to find Florida instead. In the 1800s, “snake oil” salesmen infamously ranged the West selling tonics that claimed to cure every ill, including signs of aging. Today, the search for a youth potion continues and, like modern-day snake oil salesmen, Defendant  L’Oreal USA, Inc. through its L’Oreal Paris Brand Division, (hereinafter “L’Oreal” or “L’Oreal Paris”), preys on consumers’ fundamental fear of aging and their eternal hope that products exist that can eliminate the signs of aging and effectively turn back time.
  • In fact, L’Oreal profits handsomely by making misleading claims that the L’Oreal Paris Youth Code line of wrinkle creams, specifically Youth Code Serum Intense, Youth Code Eye Cream, and Youth Code Day/Night Cream, (collectively “Youth Code” or “Youth Code Products”) have age-negating effects on human skin.”

According to a related Florida class action complaint against L’Oreal, “The Swedish Market Court fined Lancôme (Europe) one million krona, for among other things, digitally altering imagery, and banned it from making deceptive statement in its advertisements about anti-wrinkle effects.  The United Kingdom has banned L’Oreal and Lancôme (Europe) advertisements for using deceptive imagery, including an ad featuring Julia Roberts that made the actress’s skin appear to be categorically flawless.”

L'Oreal Youth Code

“10 Years of Gene Research”

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Class Action Investigation: Avalon

Under Investigation: If you have ever been employed by, or rented an apartment from Avalon, you are encouraged to contact us today.

UNDER INVESTIGATION:  AvalonAvalonBay Communities Inc, (NYSE: AVB)

Thousand of Units

Avalon Communities, or AvalonBay owns 7,631 rental units in Massachusetts. AvalonBay Communities, Inc. (AvalonBay) is a real estate investment trust (REIT).” “With more than 180 complexes in ten states and the District of Columbia, AvalonBay Communities, Inc. (AVB) is the nation’s second largest publicly traded apartment owner.”

Suspected Security Deposit Law Violations Under Investigation

Has Avalon refused to return your security deposit?
Has Avalon deducted money for cleaning charges?
Has Avalon charged you an application fee ?

The Leonard Law Office, LLP is investigating whether Massachusetts consumers have paid fees they should not have. If you paid an application fee before renting an Avalon apartment in the past four years, please contact us.

Avalon Properties in Massachusetts

Boston
Avalon at Prudential Center
780 Boylston Street
866-653-9583

Avalon Exeter
77 Exeter Street Continue reading

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Bunker Hill Community College & Higher One’s Fees – Class Action Lawsuit Investigation

UPDATE – June 10, 2014: INVESTIGATION CLOSED -

UPDATE – September 9, 2012

According to a an online petition here, “Higher One levies unfair and deceptive fees, causes constant inconvenience, displays no care or concern whatsoever for their account holders, and makes it nearly impossible to contact them whilst experiencing any of the many technical difficulties that are constantly experienced while using their services.”

UPDATE – August 9, 2012

Higher One agrees to $11 million in restitution to college students for overcharges. Continue reading

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Debt Collection, Harrassment, Cell Phones, Federal Law, and Massachusetts Law

See Also: Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers

Obviously, it is annoying to receive unwanted telephone calls from anyone, especially telemarketers and debt collectors. When calls are about a debt you don’t even owe, or to your cell phone, or placed by an autodialer, they are downright infuriating.  There are a number of overlapping state and federal consumer protection statutes – 93A,  FDCPA and TCPA – that can be used to stop harassment and penalize violators.

Massachusetts law

93A prohibits unfair and deceptive conduct directed at Massachusetts consumers. The Massachusetts Debt Collection Law, c. 93 § 49, prohibits the collection or attempted collection of a debt in “an unfair, deceptive or unreasonable manner.” Any violation of 93 § 49 is considered an “unfair or deceptive act or practice” under 93A. 93 § 49 specifies four particular practices deemed to be unfair, deceptive or unreasonable, of which harassment is one.

Federal law

FDCPA prohibits further contact upon written request. FDCPA requires validation of a questioned debt. TCPA prohibits calls initiated by an auto dialer to a cellular telephone. If the consumer did not provide their cell phone number to the original creditor or the debt collector, the debt collector violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) every time it calls the consumer’s cell phone by using an auto-dialer or predictive dialing machine. TCPA violations occur when the caller causes a phone to ring.

The four most important things the FDCPA provide are:

  • the right to be be left alone by debt collectors upon written request;
  • the right to dispute a debt and to be shown that there is a valid debt being collected;
  • the right to be undisturbed by abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices;
  • to receive up to $1,000 for each such violation.

The three most important things the TCPA provide are:

Statutory Damages

FDCPA:  up to $1,000, attorneys’ fees, and costs per call.

TCPA: $500 per violation and, if the violation is willful and knowing,  up to $1,500 per call.

There are exceptions to the TCPA. The most commonly invoked exception is  “express consent.” The FCC opined that “the provision of a cell phone number to a creditor, e.g., as part of a credit application, reasonably evidences prior express consent by the cell phone subscriber to be contacted at that number regarding the debt.” 2008 TCPA Order at ¶9. Tang v. Enhanced Recovery, LLC.  Annoying debt collection calls, even those to the wrong person, are not necessarily violations. See: NY Federal Court Agrees: No Telephone Consumer Protection Act Violation for Misdirected Prerecorded Debt Collection Calls, and Santino v. NCO.

These days, most people do not have landlines, and use only a cell phone as their primary phone number. When a debt collector is hounding you on your cell phone,  the question of course becomes, “Can A Debt Collector Call My Cell Phone?” Basically, the answer is no, unless you gave the original creditor your cell phone number.

How to make calls stop?

Should You Hire an Attorney?

Yes.  If you do not have a lawyer, hold your horses.  Before firing off a letter to the debt collector yourself, Continue reading

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Street King Energy Shots – 50 Cents? 24 Cents? 10 Cents?

Well known rapper Curtis Jackson, aka “50 Cent,” is promoting a new energy drink called “Street King.”  “G-Unit” (short for “Guerilla Unit,” is the nom de guerre of Jackson’s hiphop group.  Street King’s marketing campaign sets 50 Cents’ caffeinated, vitamin B-laced shot apart from other popular energy drinks such as 5 Hour Energy by claiming to give money to feed the world’s starving children.  I have questions about philanthropic claims being made by Street King which involve a relationship between Street King and the World Food Program.

Street King product packaging claims:

“Every energy shot sold provides a meal to a hungry child in partnership with the world’s leading charities. Details at streetking.com/giveback.”

Street King website claims:

“GIVE BACK Every energy shot sold provides a meal to a hungry child through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). To date we have funded over 3.5 million meals through WFP.”

According to the 2010 WFP annual report, the price of a meal is approximately 24 cents, as extrapolated from the following sentence: “Yum! and its brands have contributed nearly $85 million —or 350 million meals.”

However, an article describing Street King’s relationship with WFP, which cites a WFP spokesperson as a source states: “One ‘meal’ actually means a 10 cent donation to the WFP,” and “The formula of 1 energy drink = 1 meal = a 10 cent donation to the WFP.”

Continue reading

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Body Building Supplements Containing DMAA – Are they Safe?

NOTICE: If you are now, or have taken any of the products listed below, or other products that contain DMAA, 1,3-dimethylamylamine, methylhexanamine, or “geranium extract,” you may be entitled to financial compensation.  Call attorney Preston Leonard at (617)329-1295 for more information.

According the FDA, DMAA is known to narrow the blood vessels and arteries, which can elevate blood pressure and may lead to cardiovascular events ranging from shortness of breath and tightening in the chest to heart attack. As of April 2012, the FDA received 42 adverse event reports on products containing DMAA. While the complaints do not establish that DMAA was the cause of the incidents, some of the reports have included cardiac disorders, nervous system disorders, psychiatric disorders, and death.  Synthetically-produced DMAA is not a “dietary ingredient” and, therefore, is not eligible to be used as an active ingredient in a dietary supplement.  The Defense Department has enacted a ban of all products containing DMAA at military base stores: “the military worries the substance may have contributed to the deaths of two soldiers who had heart attacks during physical training after using DMAA products, as well as the cases of three soldiers and two Marines who collapsed during heavy exercise.” Read the rest of that article here. Continue reading

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Broad Street Associates v. Stephen Levine

Related posts: Apartment Amenity and Move In Fee Class Action Investigation, Equity Residential Hit With Class Action Lawsuit 

According to this decision, it is unlawful for residential landlords to charge application fees in Massachusetts.  Application fees are just one of the illegal fees that are often imposed on tenants such as up front  “move in fees,” “amenity fees,” or “pet fees.” 

Legal Issues:

1. Is charging pet rent legal in Massachusetts?

2. Is charging an up-front pet deposit or pet fee at the beginning of the tenancy legal in Massachusetts?

3. Can a Massachusetts landlord legally charge an application fee?

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS NORTHEAST HOUSING COURT

BROAD STREET ASSOCIATES v. STEPHEN LEVINE

No. 12-SP-2041

DECISION AND ORDER

On July 1, 2010, the tenant paid the landlord a $45 application fee, and on July 7, 2010, paid a $1,000 security deposit and $1,000 first month’s rent. Thereafter, the tenant paid $1,000 monthly rents and $50 per month “pet fees under three successive Leases and two successive Pet Agreements. Disputes arose between the parties, chiefly about roof leaks and related housing defects and conditions of disrepair.  The tenant withheld his rent and stopped paying the pet fees. The landlord responded by bringing this summary process case for nonpayment of rent.

1. The landlord complied with the. bank deposit and receipt requirements of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(2) (b) , (c) , and (3) (a), with respect to the $1,000 security deposit.

2. The landlord did not comply with the five-percent interest requirement of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(3){b). The tenant is entitled to payment of or credit for the $103.21 interest accrued on the security deposit.

3.  The landlord violated the excess payments requirement of the Security Deposit Law, Gen.L. c.186 §15B(1) (b) , by requiring the tenant (then a prospective tenant) to pay the $45 application fee. The tenant is entitled to return of or credit for the $45 application fee. Continue reading

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Red Envelope, ProFlowers, Cherry-Moon Farms, Secret Spoon, and Shari’s Berries “Free Shipping” Complaints

UNDER INVESTIGATION:  Red Envelope, ProFlowers, Cherry-Moon Farms, Secret Spoon, and Shari’s Berries “Free Shipping” credit card charges

Have you made purchases online and later found unauthorized monthly charges? There are a large number of complaints about credit card charges after online purchases from these companies:

Red Envelope complaints

ProFlowers complaints

Cherry-Moon Farms complaints

Secret Spoon complaints

Shari’s Berries complaints

Red Envelope, ProFlowers, Cherry-Moon Farms, Secret Spoon, and Shari’s Berries “Free Shipping” credit card charges

NOTICE: If you live in Massachusetts and want to talk to an attorney about your legal rights after receiving unfair monthly credit card charges from an online merchant, call Preston Leonard, Esq. at (617) 329-1295.

A class action complaint about Red Envelope, ProFlowers, Cherry-Moon Farms, Secret Spoon, and Shari’s Berries “Free Shipping” credit card charges in another jurisdiction alleges the following:

DEFENDANTS ADVERTISE A ‘FREE* DISCOUNT AND THEN SLIP IN A MONTHLY CHARGE FOR A MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM THAT WAS NOT AUTHORIZED

  • The scam is simple: Plaintiffs and class members were shopping at one of the many websites owned and operated by Provide-Commerce, As they were completing their online purchases. Defendants provided them with an advertisement offering them “Free Shipping” on this and 12 future transactions. By merely clicking on that ad – they did not even have to accept the offer – Plaintiffs and the Class unwittingly agreed to join a membership program operated by CMG that costs around $9.00 to $15.00 per month. Continue reading

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Class Action Investigation: Massachusetts Residential Landlords Collecting “Amenity Fees” & Other Illegal Up-Front Fees

Have you been charged any of the following fees before moving into a building?
 
  • “Amenity fee”
  • “Move in fee”
  • “Pet fee”
  • “Application fee”
  • “Maintenance fee”
  • “Credit/screening fee”
  • “Holding fee”
  • New “Community fee” (As of November 2012, Equity Residential is allegedly charging a “community fee,” due some point after the first month)
 
If so, your rights may have been violated, and you may be owed financial compensation.  If you want to talk to an attorney about your legal rights, please call me, Attorney Preston W. Leonard at (617)329-1295, or see this post to learn more about a recent class action lawsuit concerning amenity fees in Massachusetts.
 
Note: If you have paid any of the up-front fees described above in the past 4 years, even if it was not to an Equity Residential or Archstone building, you may be entitled to financial compensation. 
 
Examples of Unlawful Fees in a Massachusetts Residential Lease Agreement:
 
 
 

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Muscle Milk Class Action Settlement

The Whatley Kallas Litigation Healthcare Group, located in Boston, Massachusetts, was instrumental in achieving this recent consumer protection victory.  See that firm’s blog post about the muscle milk case here. What was the Muscle Milk Class Action Lawsuit about? “CytoSport – the company behind the popular nutritional product lines Muscle Milk, Monster Milk, CytoMax and Mighty Milk – has proposed a class action lawsuit settlement to resolve claims it did not adequately inform consumers that some of its products allegedly contained trace amounts of metals, including lead, cadmium and/or arsenic.  The proposed CytoSport settlement will resolve a class action lawsuit (Nasseri v. CytoSport, Inc.) accusing the company of violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, and various California laws, a charge the company vigorously denies. CytoSport contends that trace amounts of metals are found in the environment and in many agricultural products, and that its products are safe, as confirmed by independent testing by accredited third parties. CytoSport maintains that no consumers have suffered any injury from purchasing or drinking its products. Nevertheless, CytoSport has proposed a class action lawsuit settlement to avoid the expense of ongoing litigation.”

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Amenity & Move In Fee Class Action Investigation

Consumer Alert: Some Massachusetts Residential Landlords Routinely Violate the Law by Collecting Unlawful Move In or Amenity Fees!

  • Have you been charged an “Amenity Fee”?
  • Have you been been charged a “Move in Fee”?

If so, those fees may have been collected illegally from you! Numerous large apartment buildings in Massachusetts require tenants to pay illegal fees to move in.  If you want to talk to an attorney about your rights in regards to security deposit violations, or unlawful move in /amenity fees, please call me at (617)329-1295.

Boston Skyline - Charles River from Mass Ave. Bridge - Smoot 100

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Telemarketing Robo calls from (760) 680-6895 about lowering my interest rates

This phone number is a constant annoyance: 760 680-6895
I received annoying daily telemarketing calls from this number, even though I am on the National Do Not Call List. The recording on the other end usually says something like: “Good News! You are now eligible to lower interest rates to 4.9%. Please consider this your final notice. Press 1 now to speak with one of our customer service agents.”

I have tried to get information about the company from the live person I get after pressing 1. I say something like, “what is the name of this company?” They hang up immediately.

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Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Marketing – Philanthropy or Chicanery?

Is Pink Ribbon Cancer Marketing a Scam?

After reading the article below, you may find yourself wondering about how much of your pink-ribbon-emblazoned purchases actually go to cancer research.  The practice of pinkwashing, has been raising doubts in the minds of many consumers.

 

 

“BROCKTON —

As surely as the leaves change color every October, it’s time again for yogurt cups, sneakers, toilet paper and a slew of other products to turn pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast cancer advocates are warning again this year that buying merchandise emblazoned with a pink ribbon or cotton candy-colored packaging is no guarantee that much of a shopper’s money will actually go to fighting the disease.

Some companies that use well-known symbols of breast cancer awareness on their products have legitimate agreements with reputable fundraising groups to donate a fixed share of the proceeds.

But others only promise vaguely to donate to breast cancer causes without specifying how much or to whom.”

Read more: http://www.enterprisenews.com/archive/x843641174/Shoppers-beware-Pink-ribbons-are-not-created-equal#ixzz1aarALUgJ

 

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Intelius Opt Out

PWL – 10/5/2011

I don’t like Intelius, PublicRecords.com, or any of the “information aggregators” out there.  I will get into all of my reasons for disliking Intelius and similar companies later, but for now, please see this article about Intelius and its founder Naveen Jain.

Have you tried to opt out of Intelius?

Here is the link to do so: https://www.intelius.com/optout.php

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Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Medications

Anyone considering purchasing medications online, especially drugs like Viagra, should watch this video by Pfizer.

The scary truth is, the worldwide business of making and selling counterfeit drugs  is enormous.  Many of the fake pills contain inert substances like talc instead of real medicine, or dangerous substances such as ground up lead paint or boric acid.  Some contain real drugs that can cause deadly interactions with prescription medications.

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CVS Pharmacy Agrees to Settle $2 Million Consumer Lawsuit alleging CVS overcharged customers for sale items and engaged in misleading advertising.

Los Angeles County DA’s Office – 8/19/2011

LOS ANGELES – CVS Pharmacy agreed to settle a $2 million consumer protection lawsuit alleging that the company overcharged customers for sale items and engaged in misleading advertising.

The civil complaint was filed Aug. 11 in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the District Attorneys of Los Angeles, Riverside and Ventura counties. The final judgment was signed this week by Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis.

The complaint alleged that CVS employed misleading advertising by failing to provide an immediate discount for certain advertised items. An investigation also determined that between 2006 to the present the company, based in Rhode Island, routinely charged consumers more for items than the advertised sale price.

Under the terms of the stipulated judgment, CVS Pharmacy, Inc. agreed to pay $1.2 million in civil penalties and $420,000 in investigative costs. The company also agreed to contribute $300,000 to the state’s Department of Measurement Standards.

As part of the judgment, the company agreed to pay $100,000 to the Consumer Protection Trust toward enforcement of consumer protection laws. CVS agreed to the settlement without admitting liability and worked cooperatively in reaching a settlement with prosecutors.

CVS agreed to complete all corrective action with respect to advertising by Oct. 30. In addition, CVS agreed to initiate and administer pricing programs for a period of three years to ensure that consumers are not overcharged for their purchases. Prosecutors said the company will undertake weekly in-store price inspections to ensure pricing accuracy.

CVS also will implement a “Scan-right” program guarantee that will give consumers up to $2 off if an item has scanned at a higher price than advertised.

Media Contacts: Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolyn Nakaki, (213) 580-3273. For CVS, Mike DeAngelis, Director of Public Relations, (401) 770-2645.

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2002 MSNBC Story – “Anatomy of a penis pill swindle $74 million later, law catches up with Arizona con artists” – “ExtenZe” Similarities?

MSNBC.com/Mike Brunker

Article Excerpt:

“Giving Americans a first glimpse of an industry flourishing at the intersection of larceny and libido, authorities in Arizona are seizing the assets of a Scottsdale company that sold more than $74 million worth of pills that it claimed would enlarge penises or breasts, make the consumer taller or hairier — even sharpen his or her golf game. But despite such audacious claims, the company — C.P. Direct — would likely still be gouging the gullible if its founders hadn’t decided to also illegally charge consumers’ credit cards, industry insiders say…”

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2002 Las Vegas Raid Targeted “Longitude” Enlargement Scheme

LVAG – 6/25/2002 Press Release

Las Vegas—Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa announced that a search warrant was executed this morning in conjunction with the Money Laundering and Asset Removal Task Force of the U.S. Customs Service at a business owned and operated by Michael Consoli, Geraldine Consoli, and Vincent Passafiume, and their company, C.P. Direct, incorporated in Nevada. The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, under the direction of Consumer Advocate Timothy Hay, obtained the search warrant after receiving information that C.P. Direct was conducting fraudulent business practices advertising for sale and selling so-called herbal-based nutrition supplements that are guaranteed to induce gross physical alterations of the body. One product was marketed under the name “Longitude” and was guaranteed to result in permanent enlargement of penile length and girth by several inches in a matter of months. The company also sold “Full and Firm” capsules, represented as an “implant in a bottle” and guaranteed to increase the bust by two or three cup sizes in a matter of a few weeks. A third product, “Stature,” was also sold by the company and guaranteed to stimulate cartilage growth in the spine and knees resulting in increasing the height of the consumer by as much as four inches in a matter of months. The U.S. Customs Service, Department of Treasury conducted an investigation after receiving numerous consumer complaints about “Longitude.” Consumers complained that despite the “Iron-clad Guarantee,” they were unable to obtain the promised refunds. Consumers have complained that their credit/debit cards have been charged repeatedly and without authorization. This search warrant follows one executed on May 23, 2002 by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office regarding the same individuals and businesses located in Arizona. It is suspected that Michael Consoli, Geraldine Consoli, and Vincent Passafiume have committed the criminal offenses of Theft by Obtaining Money Under False Pretenses, a felony; Racketeering, a felony; and misdemeanor violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.  As in all criminal matters, the allegations are merely accusations and individuals are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court. Individuals who may have been victimized by C.P. Direct should call the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in Las Vegas at (702) 486-3194; in Reno at (775) 688-1818; or in Carson City at (775) 687-6300. Additional consumer protection information can be found on the Attorney General’s web site at http://ag.state.nv.us
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