Abercrombie & Fitch Sued in Ohio Over Gift Card Givaway

A class action lawsuit was filed against Abercrombie & Fitch just before Christmas by plaintiffs who claim the clothing retailer advertised a gift card promotion to Ohio customers in December 2009 as having no expiration date, but voided the cards on January 30, 2010.

Customers were promised for every $100 they spent on merchandise at Ohio Abercrombie stores, they would receive a $25
Abercrombie gift card. The cards each stated “No expiration date,” but the company voided them on January 30, 2010 by erasing all credit left on the gift cards “making it impossible for [Class Members] to receive the benefit of their bargain,” the class action lawsuit states. Continue reading Abercrombie & Fitch Sued in Ohio Over Gift Card Givaway

Class-action names Fannie, Freddie as defendants for mortgage fraud case in California

A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of foreclosed homeowners who feel they were duped into accepting home loan deals from lenders like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Countrywide Financial and IndyMac Bank.

According to a report at CourthouseNews.com, a total of 11 homeowners are represented by a class-action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles recently. They claim their credit ratings and credit histories were “damaged or destroyed” because they were entered into mortgage deals without regard for their actual financial status. Continue reading Class-action names Fannie, Freddie as defendants for mortgage fraud case in California

Merck agrees to settle Massachusetts Medicaid fraud lawsuit for $24 million

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. has settled a lawsuit in Massachusetts in which the state alleged the company over-charged the government-run Medicaid program for generic albuterol drugs to the tune of $24 million.
According to an AP report, Merck is settling a civil lawsuit filed against one of its subsidiaries which the company purchased several years ago. The lawsuit was one of several filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley against pharmaceutical companies alleging they overcharged the state’s Medicaid program for prescription drugs. Medicaid and Medicare fraud has received more attention recently as cash-strapped states attempt to balance budgets by reducing costs associated with running government. Massachusetts expects to receive more than $47 million in penalties from a dozen other pharmaceutical companies accused of over-charging the state through its government-run health insurance programs.
By agreeing to the terns of the settlement, Merck escapes having to admit any wrongdoing and Merck told AP it entered into the settlement to put halt to any “uncertainty” regarding future legal actions against the company.

FTC, Senators want investigate reach of Carrier IQ tracking software

Lawmakers and the Federal Trade Commission have launched an investigation into the business practices of one company which reportedly tracks data stored on “smart” cell phones.

According to a report at InformationWeek.com, U.S. Senators and the FTC has questioned Carrier IQ over its data collection practices and what it does with the information it collects. The company designs tracking software installed on more than 140 cell phones around the world.

Carrier IQ said it is operating within the bounds of federal communication laws and is not violating wiretap or privacy laws with how it collects the information and what it does with it.
However, Sens. Al Franken and Ed Markey want more information from the company. Carrier IQ’s reputation may have provoked the response from lawmakers and the federal government. Until an independent researcher noted the “existence” of the program which collects information from cell phones, it was not known what Carrier IQ’s mission was.

The investigators are concerned that Carrier IQ and cell phone makers never disclosed the presence of this software on phones.

While the worst-case scenario was Carrier IQ tracking locations, phone calls, text messages and personal privacy data from phones with the software, the company could have been using the data it collected from phones to sell to advertisers or marketers.

If Carrier IQ’s system is legal, it could still be vulnerable to a cyber attack, which would place millions, if not billions of people’s personal information, like credit card and Social Security numbers, at risk.

Consumers who purchased “scareware” will begin receiving refund checks

Consumers who purchased “scareware” while surfing the Web will soon receive refund checks from the Federal Trade Commission.

According to PCWorld.com, about 320,000 will receive an average of $20 as a refund for purchasing one of several bogus “scareware” programs online. This software was pitched to Web surfers as a means of “cleaning” their infected or poorly-performing computers. This “scareware” was sold under the following titles: Winfixer, Drive Cleaner, and XP Antivirus.

Consumers were duped into buying these titles because they encountered a pop-up window or received a message that questionable material had been detected on their computer like pornography, spyware or a virus. These programs claimed they could clear the problems and have a computer performing well again.

A group of defendants had previously agreed to settle deceptive marketing charges filed by the FTC over these bogus programs by paying $8.2 million.

The report indicates refund checks to consumers were beginning to be sent last week. Once received, a recipient has two months to cash it. More than 1 million people paid at least $40 for these programs and soon learned they weren’t effected at removing material from a computer.

SEC Seeks Payent for Stanford Victims

On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission asked a federal judge to order the Securities Investor Protection Corp. to field claims from customers of R. Allen Stanford – the alleged mastermind of a multibillion-dollar investment scheme – who had lost an estimated $7.2 billion as of 2009. The SEC said the SIPC had not yet fulfilled its duties.

The SIPC, which is congressionally brokered similarly to the way the FDIC protects bank depositors, had concluded that Stanford’s victims did not qualify for their assistance. SIPC President Stephen Harbeck said that if it had to pay claims to Stanford’s customers, it might have to borrow from the U.S. Treasury. Continue reading SEC Seeks Payent for Stanford Victims

Santander faces lawsuits over harassing auto loan collection practices

The massive Spanish banking firm Santander faces a class-action and at least 100 more lawsuits in the U.S. over its harassing means of collecting auto loans from customers it acquired from other banks.

According to an MSNBC.com, “a flurry” of lawsuits have been filed against Banco Santander S.A., the largest lender in Europe from auto loan customers claiming the bank’s representatives frequently call demanding payments on past-due auto loans. These calls go directly to the consumer at home, on their cell phones, at work and then extend to friends and family members with the same frequency.

The bank is also accused of tacking on thousands of dollars in late fees and retroactive service fees in their collection of sub-prime auto loans, typically made on previously-owned automobiles.

Santander bought bulk amounts of these auto loans from US banks Citibank, HSBC and numerous others in 2009 as they look to enter the domestic banking scene in full force next year. The company first purchased U.S.-based Sovereign Bank that same year and will re-brand those banks next year, according to the report.

One plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed against Santander claims she received more than 800 “robo-calls” from Santander in an attempt to collect a loan payment.

Santander also added its own fees on past-due payments made before it acquired the loan from the previous bank, sometimes charging $2,000 or more and expecting payments immediately. If those payments were not received, Santander would either threaten or actually repossess a vehicle.

Genetech to $20 Million to Settle Rituxan Whistleblower Lawsuit

Genetech Inc. has settled a whistleblower lawsuit concerning the off-label marketing of the cancer drug Rituxan.

The company will pay out $10 million to settle the matter, netting $5.7 million for former senior manager of sales development John Underwood. Underwood filed suit in July 2003 in district court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He was a senior hospital systems specialist for Genetech at the time. He was employed by the company from 1986 to 2005. Continue reading Genetech to $20 Million to Settle Rituxan Whistleblower Lawsuit

Insurers Paying Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits in Response to New York Probes

A whopping $52.6 million in unclaimed life insurance benefits has been paid out to nearly 8,000 people as a result of New York authorities putting intense pressure on life insurance companies to match policies with a list of confirmed deaths.

In addition to the 8,000 beneficiaries, claims processing has also been initiated for an additional 28,000 or so other beneficiaries, according to the Department of Financial Services. The department also recently contacted 172 life insurers and fraternal benefit societies via letter, telling them to use U.S. Social Security Administration information or a similar database to identify the deceased life insurance policy holders and account holders of annuity contracts and retained asset accounts. Continue reading Insurers Paying Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits in Response to New York Probes

Fish Barcode of Life aimed at reducing food label fraud

The Fish Barcode of Life could prevent much of the food fraud being perpetrated every day.

Mislabeled seafood products are often done so for an economic gain, labeling a fish as one species when it is, in fact, some less expensive variety. This fraud can also lead to serious illness or death.

According to a report at ConsumerAffairs.com, the Fish Barcode of Life is an ambitious effort to identify fish species through one specific gene. This gene would be detectable to regulators and inspectors as well as buyers of fish to ensure they’re purchasing the correct fish at the right price.

Food fraud is quite common and many foods are not as they’re labeled. In addition to seafood and fish, cooking oils, specifically olive oils are the source of widespread fraud. Some recent studies have found most of the olive oils available to U.S. consumers are not as they’re labeled.

As U.S. consumers tend to demand more high-end products into their mainstream, producers of foods will often re-brand their products, making unproven claims about their foods. The fish industry is a haven for this fraud since many buyers are unable spot differences in some species.