There are a number of situations covered under the area of law known as Consumer Fraud. These may touch industries such as banking and finance, insurance, securities and investments, lending, and other areas of business.
Additionally, consumer protection issues include cases that address economic losses often related to security breaches like data breaches, or defective products. These are often handled in class action litigation, which involves joining a large number of people together in consolidated litigation against a company or other entity whose actions resulted in financial harm to the consumer.
An issue that often affects consumer protection cases is arbitration. Almost every type of contract entered into by consumers now include mandatory arbitration agreements. These clauses are usually buried in the fine print of customer contracts and other agreements that customers must accept before receiving products and services.
The clauses force consumers to forfeit their right to seek a legal remedy through the court, forcing them to take their complaints to a private arbitrator of the company’s choice. This arrangement tips legal disputes in the company’s favor, and consumers are left without a means of appealing a decision.
Companies started using forced arbitration about 20 years ago despite public outcry that the clauses were giving companies license to steal. The backlash, however, finally seems to be leading to more pro-consumer measures.
Consumer Fraud also includes cases involving pension plans and other investments that affect an individual or group’s retirement income. In particular, we are investigating claims of fraud in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). According to the Department of Labor, this federal law sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans. In these cases, we’ve found that businesses may include their own or other investments beneficial to the company’s bottom line rather than those that would perform best for the employee retirement fund.