Samsung’s Exploding Washers Leave Consumers Rattled

At this point, the word “Samsung” is almost synonymous with “explosive.”

Samsung has received 733 reports of the washers malfunctioning.

Right on the heels of its massive Samsung Galaxy fiasco, last month the Korean electronics giant recalled nearly three million washing machines over hundreds of reports of the machines vibrating excessively and even firing their tops off.

The recall—which Samsung announced more than a month after the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned consumers of the washer risks—impacts 34 models encompassing 2.8 million machines. (For a full list of affected models, see the official CPSC page.) Samsung says it has received 733 reports of the washers malfunctioning, and at least nine reported injuries.

The CPSC page says injuries include “a broken jaw, injured shoulder, and other impact or fall-related injuries.”

Though the recall offers consumers either a free in-home repair or rebate to be used toward a new washer, many aren’t satisfied with Samsung’s response.

Consumers Get “Market Value” for Broken Machines

Unless a consumer purchased a washer after October 6, 2016, he or she has two options:

(1) A free in-home repair of the busted machine, which includes a one-year extension of the product’s warranty, or

(2) A rebate applied to the purchase of a new machine, plus a free installation of that machine and free removal of the old one.

At first glance, this sounds like an okay deal (especially #1). But many consumers have complained about delays in their machine repairs, or not even being able to reach Samsung.

Meanwhile, the rebate in the second option will be for the broken washer’s “current market value,” which naturally will be much lower than it was upon purchase. (Washing machines are like cars: their values plummet as soon as you take them home.)

So, Samsung is offering consumers either a partial refund/rebate for a defective machine that Samsung produced and marketed—or, a repair that has been plagued by delays.

It’s no wonder so many people are heading to court to hold Samsung accountable.

Samsung Faces Multiple Class Action Lawsuits

Way back in March, Suzann Moore and Michelle Soto Fielder filed a class action lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that their washers blew their tops. Ms. Moore said that after two uneventful years, her machine “violently exploded” in December 2015.

The complaint, filed in New Jersey (where Samsung U.S.A. is headquartered), also contends that Ms. Fielder’s machine blew up in February 2016 “with such ferocity that it penetrated the interior wall of her garage.” As with Samsung’s Galaxy phones, there are numerous YouTube videos that appear to show these devices post-explosion.

In the town of Trail, British Columbia, a man filed a lawsuit against Samsung not over physical damage or injuries, but because allegedly the rebate offered by Samsung fails to fully compensate consumers.

For example, a woman who joined the Canadian lawsuit, Brandy Robertson, received only a $410 rebate for a machine that originally cost her $900. Ms. Robertson also said she had to pay a $200 delivery fee for the new machine.

She told CTV News in Vancouver, “They should be replacing full cost of the top loaders… I think they are making money off of their recall.”

If you or a loved one have suffered physical or financial damage because of a faulty Samsung washing machine, contact us today to learn your rights.

Comcast’s Hidden Fees Could Be Illegal

A new class action lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California on October 15, 2016 alleges that Comcast’s notorious hidden fees constitute false advertising. Among the other charges in the 76-page complaint:

  • Comcast falsely advertised its cable TV service at flat monthly rates when it intended to charge more than promised via a Broadcast TV Fee and/or a Regional Sports Fee.
  • Comcast did not adequately disclose and describe these fees to plaintiffs.
  • Comcast’s representation of these fees on customers’ bills was deceptive.
  • Comcast breached its own contracts by charging these fees.
  • Comcast failed to give adequate notice to plaintiffs before increasing fee amounts.
  • Comcast misled and lied to customers about the nature and purpose of its fees.
  • Comcast breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing with customers.

Though Comcast requires all customers to agree to an arbitration clause (as part of their service agreements) that ostensibly forbids them from taking the cable giant to court, the complaint argues that this clause is “unconscionable, illusory, and unenforceable,” and that plaintiffs were not informed of the clause and/or did not agree to it.

Cable_Satisfaction_Ratings

In response, Comcast will likely point not only to the arbitration clause but to the fact that its “hidden” fees are usually noted in the fine print of advertisements and bills.

(That fine print helps explain why the cable industry is one of the most hated in America, along with airlines—though these aren’t the only ones whose actual prices dwarf their advertised ones.)

Comcast may have the law on its side, but it certainly won’t have public opinion in its corner—or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

FCC Fines Comcast $2.3 Million for Shady Billing Practices

Just days before the class action was filed, the FCC hammered Comcast with a $2.3 million fine for charging customers for equipment and services they hadn’t requested or authorized. In many cases, customers had even rejected the service offers when speaking to Comcast reps.

 

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau chief, Travis LeBlanc, said in a statement:

“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less. We expect all cable and phone companies to take responsibility for the accuracy of their bills and to ensure their customers have authorized any charges.”

The practice of “negative option billing”—charging customers for services or equipment they never asked for—is rampant in the cable industry, among others. Though Comcast acknowledged its bills could have been clearer and its customer service better, it denied any wrongdoing or even “problematic policy.”

In a statement, the company said the FCC simply found “isolated errors or customer confusion.”

WA Attorney General Sues Comcast for $100 Million

If the billing and customer service practices cited above are just isolated errors, they bear a striking resemblance to the ones outlined by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

In August 2016 Mr. Ferguson filed a $100 million lawsuit against Comcast, alleging the company violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Among that complaint’s charges:

  • Comcast duped 500,000 consumers into paying $73 million in subscription fees for a supposedly comprehensive “protection plan” that actually does not cover the vast majority of wiring work done at consumers’ homes.
  • Comcast hit subscribers with fees for service visits related to malfunctioning Comcast equipment and networking errors. (Despite the company’s guarantee: “We won’t charge you for a service that results from a Comcast equipment or network problem.”)
  • Comcast authorized service technicians to charge for work that should be performed for free.
  • Comcast performed thousands of unauthorized credit checks on customers, negatively impacting their credit scores.

Comcast’s policy states that customers with good credit scores can waive the deposit fees. At least 6,000 times, though, customers opted to pay the deposit fee—only to have Comcast check their credit anyway.

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain.”

In his press release announcing the lawsuit, Mr. Ferguson stated, “This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain. I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers—and the law.”

If you have been the victim of false advertising and/or deceptive billing practices, contact us to learn your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for financial losses and other damages.

Tyson Foods in Hot Water After Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Tyson Foods has never had a saintly reputation, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing into a poultry powerhouse and America’s largest producer of meats. In 2015, Tyson Foods raked in $41 billion in sales.

But several major scandals, a slew of class action lawsuits, one damning report from Pivotal Research, and another from Oxfam have left investors scattering.

Since September 22, Tyson’s share price has dropped from $76.76 to $70.67 (as of this writing), at times bottoming out at $67.75—its largest dip in six years. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court and a U.S. District Court in Iowa recently upheld a $6 million award for Tyson employees who hadn’t received full pay for their labor.

If the new antitrust charges stick, those financial blows could be just the beginning.

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Chicken Makers in Cahoots?

On September 2, 2016, New York-based Maplevale Farms filed an antitrust lawsuit in Illinois alleging that the $30 billion poultry industry had hatched a scheme in 2007 to inflate and fix chicken prices. That class action has since spawned five others, which will likely be consolidated into a multi-district litigation (MDL) later this year.

Of course, if the Justice Department deems this a legitimate antitrust case, they could take the reins of the lawsuit.

Source: Bloomberg
Source: Bloomberg

Among the 14 defendants are Tyson, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, and Simmons Foods. The lawsuit claims that Big Chicken jointly agreed to limit production (in some cases by simply killing off chickens early) and raise prices on chicken.

The complaint says this was a coordinated, industry-wide effort facilitated in part through a data service called Agri Stats, which allows these companies to track each other’s propriety information.

Since 2007, chicken prices—which historically fluctuate over time—have risen steadily.

Peter Carstensen, a former antitrust lawyer for the Justice Department, tells Bloomberg, “It makes sense to cut back production if, and only if, your competitors cut back, too.”

Mr. Carstensen seems bullish on the antitrust lawsuit, saying, “You’re asking the court to infer collusion. With Agri Stats, those meetings, and then, if you can line up the conduct to show reasonable uniformity, that would pretty much do it.”

Pivotal Report Reverberates on Wall Street

Like Peter Carstensen, Tim Ramey—a stock analyst for the Pivotal Research Group—feels that “the narrative of this suit fits the fact-pattern of poultry pricing and margins over the past seven years.”

“The narrative of this suit fits the fact-pattern of poultry pricing and margins over the past seven years.”

On October 7, Mr. Ramey urged investors to sell their Tyson stock. He also lowered its target share price by 60%, from $100 to just $40. Investors listened: Tyson’s price plummeted that day by nearly 10%.

Mr. Ramey called the lawsuits “powerfully convincing” and wrote, “If [the allegations are] true, it explains a lot. It explains why Tyson can offer EPS guidelines with remarkable precision; boasting of margins at record levels well into the future.”

Unfortunately for Tyson, these antitrust suits are not the only class actions threatening its business.

Fight for Your Employee Rights

Courts Uphold $6 Million Verdict

In March the Supreme Court voted 6-2 to uphold a $5.8 million award for Tyson workers in Storm Lake, Iowa who had not been paid for the time spent at work donning and removing protective gear: a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Tyson wanted the case thrown out, claiming there was not enough evidence to determine the damages owed each worker. According to Mother Jones, the company also wanted

the court to issue a broad ruling that would effectively immunize it against future class actions for wage and hour theft, and make it much harder for workers everywhere to join together to bring such claims. If it wins this case, Tyson could have it both ways: It could effectively continue to violate the FLSA and escape liability for it in court.

Thankfully the Supreme Court did not let that happen. But Tyson didn’t stop there: in June, the company asked the U.S. District Court in Sioux City, Iowa for a retrial. Judge John Jarvey denied that appeal.

It looks like Tyson will just have to pay its workers what they’re owed—which is the least it can do, given how the company allegedly treats them.

Tyson Employees Wear Diapers to Work

The Iowa case is not the first time Tyson employees have described abuse. In May, Oxfam America released a report titled “No Relief” which detailed myriad human rights violations by Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms.

The report alleges that poultry workers “earn low wages, suffer elevated rates of injury and illness, toil in difficult conditions, and have little voice in the workplace.”

Incredibly, Oxfam also writes that, due to long hours and a lack of adequate bathroom breaks,

Workers urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And they are in danger of serious health problems.

“The vast majority of workers report a lack of adequate bathroom breaks,” the report says.

Tyson denied Oxfam’s claims, while the National Chicken Council questioned their validity given the workers’ anonymity.

But if the “No Relief” report is true, Tyson could soon have yet another class action lawsuit on its hands.

A Timeline of Monsanto’s Roundup Controversy

Monsanto is no stranger to controversy. This is the company that brought us Agent Orange, an herbicide deployed during the Vietnam War that wound up traumatizing both the Vietnamese and our own troops. (Monsanto would later reach a $180 million settlement with Vietnam vets over diseases like leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and respiratory cancer.)

Hold Monsanto Accountable

In 1974, four years after the U.S. stopped using Agent Orange, Monsanto introduced Roundup (glyphosate)—another powerful herbicide that quickly became a mainstay on most American farms.

But like Agent Orange, Roundup would be linked to cancer. This herbicide, too, could wind up costing the company millions due to lawsuits.

1996

monsanto-info_large

Monsanto patents and releases Roundup-Ready seeds, which are genetically modified to withstand the ubiquitous Roundup herbicide. (These seeds/crops are known as GMCs: genetically modified crops.) This allows farmers to kill weeds (in the short term, at least) without also dooming their own crops.

Over the next 20 years, Roundup-Ready crops will come to dominate their respective markets, eventually reaching a 90% share.

Thanks to the Roundup-Ready patent and relevant legal protections—and Monsanto’s aggressive acquisitions of its competitors—some argue that Monsanto has a monopoly on the biotech industry. (Without question, it is the largest biotech company in the world.)

2009

The Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. is released on June 12. The film shows Monsanto in a harsh light, portraying the company as mobilizing an army of attorneys to bully farmers into using their Roundup-Ready soybeans—and suing those who won’t cooperate.

Importantly, the film emphasizes that the Roundup-Ready seeds are “terminating” seeds. That means farmers can’t replant them; instead, they must go back to Monsanto to buy more seeds whenever they run out.

Food, Inc. inflicts so much damage on Monsanto’s reputation that the company creates several pages on its website just to respond to the charges lobbed in the film.

2013

Entropy—a peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Switzerland—publishes a study that concludes

glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.

According to the study, one of the consequences of this negative impact is cancer.

Hold Monsanto Accountable

2015

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC (part of the World Health Organization, or WHO) assesses the potential cancer-causing (carcinogenic) effects of glyphosate (Roundup). It determines that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

That fall, plaintiffs file the first of at least 25 lawsuits against Monsanto over Roundup’s allegedly cancer-causing effects. Many plaintiffs, like Yolanda Mendoza, just sprayed Roundup on their yard every week.

Ms. Mendoza, a mother of three, contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2013. (After intensive chemotherapy, her cancer is currently in remission.)

“What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Her attorney Robin L. Greenwald tells CBS News, “Some people are landscapers, some people are migrant farm workers, some people are farmers. What everyone has in common is that they all used Roundup and they all have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

For the year, Monsanto rakes in $4.75 billion in herbicide sales.

2016

In April, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOME) publishes a study that concludes that herbicides like glyphosate are “associated with a high risk of cutaneous melanoma” (skin cancer), “in particular among those exposed to occupational sun exposure.”

In September, pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG announces it will buy Monsanto for $66 billion, raising serious concerns about rising prices for farmers. (This is the second massive merger of the year after the Dow-DuPont deal.)

Later that month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds trace amounts of Roundup in various oatmeals, cereals, and baby foods.

The next month, federal judges consolidate 21 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits into a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of California.

TODAY

If you or a loved one contracted cancer after using Roundup, please contact us today to explore your legal options. Our firm is one of the most successful consumer protection firms in the country, with more than 300 attorneys and a support staff of 1,500. We have a history of standing up to bullies and have never represented a large corporation—that’s why our motto is “For the People.”

We may be able to help you get relief for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses. Don’t wait; these lawsuits are time-sensitive, and you may be owed compensation.

Wells Fargo Under Fire for Bogus Accounts Scandal

Wells Fargo must pay $185 million in fines for secretly opening unauthorized debit and credit card accounts for customers in a scheme engineered to boost stock prices and executive pay.

The money will go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the City and County of Los Angeles, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Also in line to receive restitution are the victims of the scheme, who had accounts unwittingly opened in their names.

Hold Wells Fargo Accountable

But while governments and consumers have scored a victory in the scandal’s resolution, there has been no financial relief for Wells Fargo employees claiming they were fired or demoted for playing by the rules and not opening secret accounts to meet sales quotas.

“Cross-Selling” Goes Back to at Least 2002

Federal regulators say Wells Fargo employees opened 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards without customers’ permission. The bank has fired more than 5,000 employees involved in the scheme.

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf defended the bank’s publicly stated goal of opening eight accounts per customer, whch it calls “cross-selling.” Wells Fargo set the goal of eight accounts as early as 2002, according to a Public Citizen report.

Stumpf earned $19.3 million in 2015 as the company’s stock became a Wall Street favorite. Wells Fargo is currently the most valuable bank in the world.

“Cross-selling is shorthand for deepening relationships,” he told the Committee.

Stumpf said Wells Fargo fired workers between 2011 and 2015 for the sales practices in question, but also said the issue didn’t reach the board level until 2013. He claims he wasn’t personally aware of the extent of the problem until 2015.

He maintained there was no orchestrated deception by Wells Fargo, and that the 5,300 employees it fired for creating false accounts were acting independently.

But this explanation does not square with the claim made by regulators and former workers that Wells Fargo employees were encouraged to open the unauthorized accounts through a compensation scheme that awarded them for increasing their cross-sale numbers.

Former Wells Fargo Workers Sound Off

Dennis Russell, a telephone banker with Wells Fargo in Orange County, California for five years, said he was fired in 2010 for not meeting sales quotas. He told the New York Times that he couldn’t legitimately offer banking products to the customers he spoke with because many of them were already behind on their mortgages, credit cards, and cars.

“They established the culture that made this happen—it comes down from the top.”

Russell lost his home after losing his job with Wells Fargo. He scoffs at John Stumpf’s claim that the bank did not encourage fraudulence in the pursuit of cross-sale quotas.

“It’s a crock,” Russell said. “They established the culture that made this happen—it comes down from the top.”

Christopher Johnson told the Times he was fired from Wells Fargo in 2008 after a five-month stint as a business banker for refusing to go along with pressure from his manager to open accounts for his friends and family, even if he didn’t have their permission to do so. He reported his concerns to the company’s ethics hotline and was fired three days later for “not meeting expectations.”

Johnson lost his home and possessions and spent the better part of a year living out of his truck.

Hold Wells Fargo Accountable

The Wells Fargo scandal is just the latest example of executives at major companies concocting schemes that benefit them at the expense of low-level employees.

If Wells Fargo will not do the right thing and compensate the real victims of its fraud—the employees that were fired for not engaging in unethical business practices—it is up to the workers themselves to demand justice.

If you are a former Wells Fargo employee who refused to set up accounts without customers’ knowledge and were punished for it, we would like to hear from you. Contact us for a free, confidential case review.

Often the lead class action plaintiff receives extra compensation for his or her role in the case.