Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two Carriers Defy Class-Action Suit over Credit Privacy

I've blogged about disputes and conflicts between customers and Mobile Phone carriers in this wireless contract info blog. Most of these disputes originate from problems over wireless contract polices.

Now it seems that plaintiffs’ lawyers have found a new weapon to pursue class-action consumer litigation against the mobile-phone industry. It's known as the "Fair Credit Reporting Act". After doing a bit of research I found out that the Fair Credit Reporting Act is an American federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information.

Amendments made to the FCRA about five years ago, orders that account information on printed receipts given to customers should be significantly limited by businesses that accept credit cards or debit cards for payment. This new guidelines have been imposed by early December 2006.

Recently, class-action lawsuits have been filed against Verizon Wireless and Alltel Corp. because of alleged noncompliance with the law. The financial implications of the class-action suits are potentially massive because both companies have millions of subscribers.

If a court finds willful noncompliance with the law, then the consumer is entitled to a maximum of $1,000 in statutory damages, plus actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The lawsuit against Alltel states that:
“Although defendants had up to three years to comply, defendants have willfully violated this law and failed to protect plaintiff and others similarly situated against identity theft and credit card and debit card fraud by continuing to print more than the last five digits of the card number and/or the expiration date on receipts provided to debit card and credit card cardholders transacting business with defendants,

In court filings, Alltel and Verizon Wireless have denied allegations in the lawsuits. Let's see the wireless contract policies of both carriers when it comes to credit information. I have posted on this topic before but this should refresh you minds.

Here is Verizon Wireless contract policy on customer credit information.
Further, you’ve authorized us to investigate your credit history at any time and to share credit information about you with credit reporting agencies and our affiliates. If you ask, we’ll tell you the name and address of any credit agency that gives us a credit report about you.
This is a very interesting piece of news because of its possible impact. Verizon has a lot of customers so this may be a big blow for them. The same goes for Alltel. It's a smaller company so it would be interesting to see how they handle themselves if the court rules for the plaintiffs.

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