Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices

All states have consumer protection laws that are devised to prohibit a wide variety of deceptive and unlawful business practices. These laws allow consumers protection against predatory and dishonest business practices. The District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) is a comprehensive statute, covering many types of violations. Consumer fraud can take many different faces; including false advertising, misrepresentation of features, misrepresentation of qualifications, warranty breeches, and any other ploys meant to mislead the consumer.

Please contact us for a free consultation if you believe you have been a victim of any of these schemes.

Active Cases

TikTok Violation of Children’s Privacy Investigation:
Social networking app TikTok, previously known as Musically, has settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $5.7 million over allegations that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The act requires social networking apps or websites targeting children to acquire parental consent from users who are under 13 years of age before they start collecting personal data. The FTC found that, despite knowing that a substantial number of their users were children under age 13, Musically failed to notify parents or receive parental consent before collecting email addresses, names, and other personal information. Additionally, the company violated the COPPA Rule by failing to delete personal information at the request of parents.

Bethesda Game Studios:
The game developer released their latest game, Fallout 76, and received heavy criticism for shipping what reviewers and consumers considered an unfinished product at full retail price. Bethesda Games refused to issue refunds for PC purchasers of the game who found it to be unplayable because of its technical problems. While minor bugs and glitches are expected with the release of most new games, Fallout 76 launched with a 56GB patch that has proven to be but a starting point for the game’s problems. Gamers who have tried to receive a refund because of the game’s overwhelming glitches have been unable to do so since they downloaded the game, leaving them to deal with an unplayable experience until patches bring it back to a playable state.

Gym Membership Continued Fees Class Action:
Migliaccio & Rathod LLP has recently filed a case in the Washington D.C. Superior Court against Washington Sports Clubs, for failing to cancel a client’s membership even after he made repeated attempts to terminate it. The lawsuit alleges that, under D.C. law, customers must provide a separate signature or payment authorization before a gym membership auto-renews, which Washington Sports Club failed to do. The plaintiff in the case also informed employees multiple times verbally and requested in writing that his membership be cancelled, but he continued to be charged membership fees.

Open Investigations

Entertainment Software Rating Board Deceptive Trade Practices Investigation:
The ESRB has rated NBA 2k20 “E for Everyone” despite the game’s use of gambling mechanics, including simulated slot machines, pachinko, and roulette. According to the review board’s criteria, simulated gambling mechanics can be expected in video game rated “T for Teen”, or appropriate for players aged 13 and up. Should a game contain gambling with real currency, the appropriate rating, according to the ESRB should be “AO” or “Adults Only 18+” Coupling the use of real-world currency with the purchase of simulated “coins” or “tokens”, where the player can win rewards using gambling mechanics, makes NBA 2k20 a game unsuitable for children or teens.

Lyft/Uber Driver Wage Theft and Misclassification Investigation:
By being classified as independent contractors, Uber and Lyft drivers are prevented from earning overtime pay, having paid break time, or receiving paid time off. Drivers have recently won major legislative and financial victories for themselves against Lyft and Uber, which suggests the misclassification can be successfully combatted.

“Eco-Friendly” Yoga Mats Deceptive Trade Practices Investigation:
Laboratory testing by the Ecology Center found the following differences between what a yoga mat was purportedly made of and its actual material makeup:

  • Yoga mats made out of polymer environment resin, labeled PER, were made of vinyl, or PVC, which is a material that causes the release of toxic and persistent chemicals during manufacture and disposal.
  • A yoga mat advertised as “organic jute and PER” was made mostly of PVC with a single layer of jute.
  • The yoga mats made of PVC contained the plasticizer DOTP, a substitute for phthalates that is likely safer but needs more research.
  • A yoga mat made of recycled wetsuits contained phthalates, a hazardous class of plasticizers.

Of the eleven mats tested by the Ecology Center, three were found to largely consist of PVC, including: Ajna Natural Jute, Aurorae Synergy 2-in-1, and GAIAM Premium Yoga Mat 6mm.

Are Some Video Game Publishers Exploiting Gamers with Loot Boxes and Other Bad Practices? We Investigate.
In recent years the video game industry has been monetizing games far beyond the initial purchase price. Payment schemes like downloadable content and season passes allow publishers and developers to add post-release content for their games, sometimes for years. Some increasingly prevalent monetization practices, however, are predatory and unfair.

Why Is Robinhood Receiving Millions from High-Frequency Traders? We investigate.
The web is abalze with concerns about stock trading company Robinhood receiving potentially millions of dollars in payments for selling its customers’ orders to high frequency traders (“HFTs”). Robinhood is a stock-trading platform with a large millennial base who were drawn in by the promise of commission-free trading. Recent government filings reveal that Robinhood is selling HFTs order flows and receiving up to ten times more than other trading companies do. The act of selling order flows to HFTs can be considered toxic to average investor–otherwise called retail investors–because HFTs are, in effect, granted an advanced look at which market orders are going to be affected, helping HFTs decide whether to buy shares at a lower market value, or decline to trade with investors who order if moving with the market.

eForcity Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Investigation:
eForcity is an online retailer that also fulfills orders for other stores, including Newegg and Walmart. Customers report myriad issues associated with their orders. Products advertised as new are instead in used condition, wrong products are delivered, and delivery times are longer than advertised. Returns are also an ordeal, with the consumer incurring the cost of a 15% restocking fee, even when the wrong item arrived, or arrived damaged. Returning the item within 30 days does not eliminate the restocking fee and shipping costs also fall on the customer. After 30 days, returns are not accepted, and the extra days that it may take for eForcity to receive a delivery count against the consumer.

Instacart and Doordash Deceptive Tip Stealing Investigation:
Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is currently investigating app-based food delivery services Instacart and Doordash for deceiving consumers who tip. It is commonly understood that a tip given to a worker is meant for the worker, rather than for the company. Doordash and Instacart, however, do not give their workers the full tip amount entered by customers, and instead use the customer’s tip to offset the amount that the company already agreed to pay the workers for their work. For example, a customer might give a $10 tip for a delivery made, but only a portion of those $10 may make it to the worker as a tip. This is a deceptive practice because the reasonable customer believes all of their tip, not a portion or percentage, will go to the worker, but that is not the case.

Nvidia MX 150 GPU Low-Powered Variant Investigation:
Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is investigating potential claims of deceptive and misleading marketing by computer chip manufacturer Nvidia. The GeForce MX 150 GPU is a low-budget mobile GPU that Nvidia claims can offer up to three times the performance per watt over its predecessor. There are, however, two variants of the GeForce MX 150 GPU, the weaker version of which can be 20 to 25 percent slower than its identically named counterpart—and which offers the same performance as the model it replaces. The weaker chipset bears the ID “10DE 1D12” and might also go by “N17S-LG-A1,” but neither of these identifiers is mentioned in marketing materials or packaging of 13-inch notebooks, where most of these chips have been found. Since the specification sheet does not usually say more than Nvidia GeForce MX 150, consumers may unknowingly be purchasing a computer with significantly lower performance than they otherwise wanted.

Total Loss Auto Insurance Payment Investigation:
Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is currently investigating insurance companies that fail to properly compensate owners whose vehicles are deemed a “total loss” following an accident. When filing a first-party claim through one’s insurance company, the claimant should expect to receive the actual cash value (ACV) or market value of the insured’s vehicle so that it can be replaced with a similar vehicle. The total value of the vehicle includes sales tax, either paid on the original vehicle or the newly-purchased vehicle depending on state law, but insurers sometimes fail to apply this payment to the lost vehicle’s value, resulting in a payment to the insured that is hundreds or thousands of dollars below what is required by state law. As a result an owner may be unable to replace their lost vehicle with an equivalent vehicle without reaching into their pocket to make up for the necessary sales tax.

Nonconsensual Pelvic Examination Investigation:
Migliaccio & Rathod LLP is currently investigating the practice of performing pelvic examinations on anaesthetized patients. Women who were scheduled for a surgical procedure report being informed—after the anesthetic has worn off—that their physician, and the physician’s medical student(s), performed pelvic exams on them. These exams involve the physician’s or the medical student’s probing of the woman’s vagina and cervix and are done for the purpose of teaching students how to identify abnormalities. The practice, however, is done without asking for or receiving the patient’s expressed consent, despite the invasive nature of the exam.

Bank of America Predatory Lending:
Customers report that the terms of their home equity loans change from what was initially agreed upon. For one customer, the payment owed doubled from its initial rate; the loan’s variable rate became tied to the Fed’s raising or lowering of federal interest rates; invoices were not mailed on a consistent basis, leaving the customer unsure of the amount owed; and the due date of payments was changed without the customer’s input. Taken together, these measures have the potential to make customers fall behind on their payments, raising the possibility for missed payments and late fees.

M&T Bank Unauthorized Charges:
M&T Bank is under investigation for failing to make its customers aware of fees that would be charged if certain conditions were not met for their savings account. Customers report that a service fee of $15.00 dollars a month are taken out of the savings account if there is not a minimum of $2,500.00 in the account. This fee can go unnoticed in statements, leaving customers unaware not only that their account is being charged, but also how to meet the conditions that would make the charge stop, since they didn’t know about those conditions in the first place.

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