Here’s a disconcerting story about anti-consumer legislation pending in California. The bill would limit consumer class actions by allowing unhappy defendants to appeal pro-consumer rulings. There are multiple levels of irony in California’s AB298.
It’s being pushed by the “Civil Justice Association.” Turns out that the Civil justice Association is controlled by AIG, bailed out banks and big tobacco reps. George Orwell is having a heckuva of laugh over that one.
Consumer class actions are one of the few remaining methods that the rest of us use to exercise control over corporate profiteers gone wild. They provide consumers with the ability to obtain civil justice by forcing rogue corporations to refund ill-gotten profits from illegal schemes.
Automatic appeals slow cases. We’ve seen this problem in Oregon, as our Comcast late fee class action has taken almost five years to date, and it’s nowhere near over. And that five years inclued one automatic appeal already. Brought to you by AIG should be enough to kill this. But of course, that only happens if consumers make noise.
No one said it would be quick or easy, and no one was right on both counts.
We’ve finally gotten an order entered certifying a class action in Martin v. Comcast. It’s an Oregon class action in which the class claims that Comcast illegally charged TV cable service late fees in Oregon.
Here is the link to the order for those who collect such things: Martin v. Comcast Oregon order certifying class action
We filed the case in 2004. We’ve been up and back to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Now that the class is certified, it’s time to push forward.
My thanks and appreciation to my co-counsel Tim Quenelle. I don’t think he quite imagined that any case could go this long when he asked me to take it on with him.
It’s one of those classic nickel-and-dime cases. Each consumer was hit for only a $6.00 late fee. But those $6.00 late fees add up when you hit hundreds of thousands of consumers over the years.
Under Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act, the class can recover the money, together with interest and attorney fees. So while it’s been a long slog, my hope is that we will succeed in getting Comcast to cough up the money and return it to consumers who were illegally charged.
For those who are crtical of class actions, I can only pose a simple question. When a large business like Comcast illegally collects small fees, who should keep the money? Should a bad actor retain millions of illegally collected small fees, or should we do our best to make sure that bad actors don’t profit by returning the money to the pockets from which it came?
For those following Gibson v. Providence, State of Oregon Court of Appeals, Case No. CA A137930, we’re scheduled to argue in front of the Court of Appeals next Thursday, April 2. The question is whether the trial court erroneously dismissed the proposed class action.
It’s been a long haul, and there is far to go. No one said this would be easy, but then that’s usually how it works. I’ll post an update on oral argument. Meantime, if you want to review a copy of the first brief that we filed for the patients, you can find it archived here. But you should only do so if you’re into the whole law geek thing.
Welcome news here that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is leading the charge to reform Oregon’s initiative system. By means of legislation introduced in the Oregon House, HB 2005, Brown is fulfilling a campaign promise to clean up Oregon’s initiative system.
It takes little reflection to give this effort two thumbs up. Oregon’s initiative system needs reform. It’s become the playground of out-of-state monied interests who seek to push bizarre agendas here. Most infamously, the abuses of the initiative system have been well chronicled in the case of Bill Sizemore, racketeer.
Secretary of State Brown’s reform proposals provide a modest set of changes that allow better monitoring. The initiative system needs to be transparent, and it needs to be clean. Otherwise, it should be scrapped, even though that radical change would require amendment of the Oregon constitution. At bottom, Oregonians are tired of being played the fools by the likes of Messrs. Sizemore and Parks. So if we’re to maintain the initiative system, modest proposals–like those made by Sec. of State Brown–are essential.